Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoint Atlanta
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Chaos Caused by Discharged Firearm at Atlanta Airport — But What Actually Happened?

A suspect was named in the incident, which injured at least three people.

A firearm had discharged yesterday afternoon, Saturday, November 20, 2021 at the main security checkpoint of the international airport which serves the greater metropolitan area of Atlanta, which resulted in chaos for approximately two hours with at least three people who were reported to be injured.

Chaos Caused by Discharged Firearm at Atlanta Airport — But What Actually Happened?

An official statement was issued from the airport via Twitter concerning the incident; but with few details.

Additional details of the incident were included in this official statement which was released yesterday from the Transportation Security Administration of the United States:

At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, a property search TSO at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s (ATL) Main Checkpoint began a bag search due to a prohibited item identified by the X-Ray. He advised the passenger not to touch the property, and as he opened the compartment containing the prohibited item, the passenger lunged into the bag and grabbed a firearm, at which point it discharged. The passenger then fled the area, running out of the airport exit.

This was not an active shooter event. Local airport and TSA leadership made the decision to initiate a ground stop while Atlanta Police Department investigated the incident further.

Atlanta Police Department gave an all-clear at 3:20 PM and TSA began rescreening passengers at that time.

Early reports indicate three people sustained non-life-threatening injuries. UPDATE: There may be more injuries that follow early reports. At this time, we do not have complete information.

TSA officers have detected more than 450 firearms at ATL checkpoints in 2021. This incident underscores the importance of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before leaving for the airport. Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.

When passengers bring firearms to airport checkpoints, TSA will assess a civil penalty that varies by number of previous offenses and whether the firearm was loaded at the time. The complete list of penalties is posted on TSA PreCheck® members caught with a firearm at a TSA checkpoint may lose their expedited screening privileges for three years or more.

Passengers may travel with firearms in checked baggage when they are unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case. The passenger must declare and present the case with the firearm at the airline check-in counter and inform the airline representative of their intention to travel with the firearms. Firearms are transported with checked baggage and are placed in the cargo hold of the aircraft. Visit the TSA website for details on how to properly travel with a firearm.

Kenny Wells — who is 42 years of age — was officially named as a suspect in the incident, according to this press release from the Police Department of the City of Atlanta: “There were three requests for medical assistance reported as Atlanta Police were responding to the call of shots fired. Of those three injures, one person requested EMS from a fall that occurred in the atrium of the airport, with is not in the same area of the security check point, and two others complained of a shortness of breath. There were no further reports of injury.”

An official video of a briefing of the incident was also released via Facebook from the aforementioned police department.

Various videos of the chaos which resulted as the aftermath of the discharge of the firearm appeared via social media from witnesses who were at the airport at that time — one of which noted a law known as the Safe Carry Protection Act which was passed in 2014 in Georgia, which dictates where firearms may be carried by residents of the state; as well as allows residents with a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring firearms into certain parts of airports, among other areas:

Final Boarding Call

I am not sure why a passenger would be attempting to pass a loaded firearm through a security checkpoint at any airport — and I am not completely convinced that the discharge was accidental, as the entire incident does not add up to me.

Additional details will likely be forthcoming — and if they are, I plan on covering them in a future article…

…and on a different note, you might be interested in reading about this “do you know who I am” story as related by FlyerTalk member coke cans and winglets just after the incident happened at the airport…

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

  1. It doesn’t add up because what happened is that a black convicted felon (Kenny Wells) was the person that showed up at the TSA checkpoint with a loaded gun. When it went through the x-ray and at the secondary screening he grabbed the gun and fired it. So all the keyboard warriors jumping on the “hate the 2nd amendment and NRA” social media bandwagon are wrong that it was just some random white redneck. He was a criminal. He wasn’t allowed to possess a gun but he had one. I’m sure a law banning firearms from the airport would have stopped him. If he was planning on using the gun inside security no passengers or employees would have been able to defend themselves as they are all unarmed unless they managed to sneak a gun through security. What worries me is how did the TSA respond and how would they be in a major active shooter incident or terrorist attack. They should be the people running toward the danger to put a stop to it but in some of the aftermath videos around the airport, I see the TSA employees fleeing along with passengers. Of course on the other hand I don’t really want to arm TSA employees either so it all seems like a paper tiger.

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