With their high levels of security, American airports are typically very safe places to be. However, this was not the case in New Orleans in March 2015 when a machete-wielding man attacked travelers and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) officers at the city’s airport. Thankfully, quick action by law enforcement officers saved the day, and nobody was hurt.
Richard White entered the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport with a bag of Molotov cocktails and a machete. This deranged man first attacked travelers and TSA officers with a can of wasp killer before attacking TSA supervisor Carol Richel with a machete.
Lieutenant Heather Sylve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department fired her pistol as the two approached her. She fatally injured White although Richel was also shot in the process. Fortunately, her injury was only minor. Despite her wound, Richel secured her TSA inspection site and even reported for work the next day.
Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, visited the airport on March 27 to thank these officers for their heroic efforts. In a prepared statement, Johnson lauded Lieutenant Style along with Carol Richel and her TSA colleagues. He said that he found their bravery and dedication “inspiring” and a reminder of the TSA’s contribution to aviation security.
The TSA has been on high alert since the shooting of Officer Gerardo L. Hernandez in 2013 at the Los Angeles airport. The agency instituted active-shooter training exercises for its employees.
The TSA officer’s union is arguing that certain TSA officers should be armed to better protect both the flying public and those who work for the this agency. Both TSA leaders and members of Congress are pushing back, however, stating that more firearms in the airport could actually work to compromise security, not improve it. Fortunately, legislation is in progress that would strengthen communication between local law enforcement and the TSA, helping to ensure that armed back-up is always available at a moment’s notice.