New Orleans Police Say Airport Attacker Could Be Mentally Ill

New Orleans

It was a frightening scene on Friday night at New Orleans international airport, as a 63-year-old attacked TSA workers with a machete, while also wielding explosives. Police said they discovered after the event, that the man later identified as Richard White was carrying a range of explosives, including six gasoline-filled Molotov cocktails and a lighter. White was also packing an acetylene tank and other supplies out in his car. As White was shot three times, due to a police officer’s quick reaction, he remains in the hospital in critical care. Police stated that they were very interested in having the opportunity to talk to White, but were afraid that that possibility may not be. New Orleans police have said, however, that they believe that the airport attacker could be mentally ill.

According to a neighbor, Richard White was a man who was strong in his religion, as a Jehovah witness, and stated that he even did not believe in Western medicine, urging her to take herbal remedies instead of pills. The neighbor stated that White was formerly in the Army and was a retired vet, living on Social Security and disability.

But police tell a different story after last night’s attack. They stated that White has had many minor violations previously, and that they believe he is mentally ill, especially after last night’s event, in which White behaved strangely and very dangerously. The odds were clearly against him as White walked up to an airport security terminal and began spraying people with wasp killer. He then pulled a machete from his waistband and began swinging at people and chasing a woman worker around. His attack seemed to lack planning and was just spontaneously done.

A Sheriff’s Deputy of Jefferson Parish, Lt. Heather Slyve, was the officer who took the shots after she reacted quickly to White’s attack. She drew her weapon and fired three rounds which hit White in the leg, chest, and face. A bullet also struck the arm of a TSA agent nearby, though she was treated and is now doing fine. As bullets were fired in the airport, chaos broke out, as everyone was told to get down. White was immediately taken to a hospital where he received surgery overnight, but is still unconscious.

Investigators are looking into the reason why White may have been at the airport. They stated that it does not seem like he had any intention of getting on a plane. New Orleans police do say that they believe White was mentally ill, as he attacked the airport. Mayor Mitch Landrieu stated that the attack was unexpected and performed by a “clearly troubled and disturbed individual.” The case may simply be left to inference, if White is unable to wake up for questioning. If he did wake up, however, and was in fact mentally ill, police would probably still get no answers for why White attacked the New Orleans international airport.

Bystanders are shaken, but normal travel is now occurring. All passengers were safely evacuated after the attack, with the only injuries being the ones to the TSA agent and White. Police were effectively able to control the situation, before it escalated. Police are still trying to figure out what White’s possible intentions could have been for the explosives he was carrying, or for the equipment left in his car. So far, the only possible explanation that New Orleans police can come up with for any of it, is that Richard White attacked the airport, only because he was severely mentally ill.

*Update – Police just announced that Richard White died in the hospital.

By Crystal Boulware


USA Today
New Orleans Advocate

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