Mon, Mar 23, 2015 - Page 7 News List

New Orleans airport assailant dies of wounds

STILL MANY QUESTIONS:Police were apparently unable to talk to Richard White before he died to find out what triggered his Friday night rampage

NY Times News Service, NEW ORLEANS

The machete-wielding man who attacked officers at a security checkpoint at the New Orleans airport on Friday night and was shot by a sheriff’s deputy died on Saturday, law enforcement officials said.

The suspect, Richard White, 63, was declared dead at 4:02pm, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said.

Investigators had hoped to question White to find out what set off his rampage, but he appeared to have died before law enforcement officials were able to speak with him.

At a news conference at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport earlier on Saturday, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand described the early findings of the investigation of the episode, which began with White spraying several Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers with wasp spray and then swinging a machete at others.

He was then shot at least three times by Lieutenant Heather Sylve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators said he was struck on the left side of his body, on his face, chest and thigh.

Carroll Richel, a TSA supervisory officer, was wounded by one of the gunshots, but appeared at Saturday’s news conference, showing a pink bandage around her upper arm and saying that she felt fine. No other officers or passengers were seriously wounded in the episode.

“We very much want the opportunity to talk to him,” Normand said at the news conference, hours before the news came of White’s death.

Officials said White appeared to have prepared for far wider carnage.

The sheriff said that White had dropped a shopping bag he was carrying when he began spraying insecticide on the first TSA officer he encountered at the security gate.

After arriving at the scene, investigators smelled gasoline, and they discovered inside the bag six half-pint jars filled with gasoline with cloth wicks stuffed into the tops. A gas lighter was also found in the bag, Normand said.

Investigators searching White’s car, which had been left in front of the terminal, found several smoke bombs as well as oxygen, freon and acetylene tanks.

The motive for the attack was unclear, Normand said. He added that White’s wife and children had been “very cooperative” and had told the authorities that there was a “mental illness component” to his behavior.

However, the sheriff said officials had not learned of any past episodes that might have hinted at an outburst of violence like the one on Friday.

White lived in Kenner, a New Orleans suburb where the airport is located.

The sheriff praised the actions of the officers at the scene and expressed relief that things had not turned out far worse.

“Sometimes the saying is you’d rather be lucky than good,” he said. “I think we were both last night.”

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