FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2016, file photo taken from video, travelers pass through the main security gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in Atlanta. Authorities say a passenger awaiting a bag search at the Atlanta airport's main security checkpoint reached into the bag and grabbed a firearm, and it went off, causing chaos among travelers and prompting a temporary FAA ground stop on flights Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021, officials said. (AP Photo/Jeff Martin, File)
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By Bill Cormier, AP

A passenger awaiting a search at the Atlanta airport’s main security checkpoint reached in his bag and grabbed a firearm, and it went off, causing chaos among travelers and prompting a temporary FAA ground stop on flights Saturday afternoon, officials said. The man fled.

The man, later identified as a convicted felon, ran with the gun from the checkpoint and escaped out an airport exit, the Transportation Security Administration said. Authorities said it was not an active shooter incident and described the discharge as accidental.

Police said later they had issued a warrant for the arrest of the passenger, 42-year-old Kenny Wells.

The airport’s police commander, Maj. Reginald Moorman, said Wells was being sought on charges including carrying a concealed weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm and reckless conduct.

“We are actively pursuing this individual as we speak,” Moorman said at a news briefing Saturday evening with TSA and airport officials.

The discharge caused a frenzy on social media as alarmed travelers posted videos to Twitter and other sites showing and describing moments of chaos and confusion at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest.

Authorities said three people suffered minor injuries, including one person who fell in the airport’s atrium area away from the checkpoint, and two complaining of shortness of breath. Police said they had to work crowd control until things calmed.

A TSA official said no one was shot.

In this undated booking photo provided by the Atlanta Police Department is suspect Kenny Wells. Authorities say a passenger awaiting a bag search at the Atlanta airport’s main security checkpoint reached into the bag and grabbed a firearm, and it went off, causing chaos among travelers and prompting a temporary FAA ground stop on flights Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021, officials said. Police said later Saturday evening that they had identified the passenger as a 42-year-old convicted felon, Wells, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)

“We were fortunate that when the firearm went off, no one was seriously injured,” Robert Spinden, the TSA’s director of federal security for Georgia, said at the airport briefing. Officials didn’t immediately disclose the type of weapon involved.

Social media users reported there were long lines afterward and missed flights for some. The incident came ahead of the peak Thanksgiving holiday travel season as people are still coping with the concerns of safely traveling during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the FAA ordered a temporary ground stop, airport officials said operations never ceased and the airport didn’t close. They said the airport returned to normal operations in under two hours.

The TSA statement said it all began when the passenger was about to undergo a bag search by an official at 1:30 p.m. at the airport’s main checkpoint after an X-ray scan detected what was described as a “prohibited item.”

“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,” according to the statement.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported social media users rushed from the airport in the chaos after hearing the gun going off. One video posted on Twitter showed people running out of the terminal, some anxiously glancing back.

After Atlanta police gave the all-clear normal operations resumed at the airport before 3:30 p.m. TSA said all passengers had to be re-screened.

The TSA said the incident underscores the importance for all passengers of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before leaving for the airport. Passengers caught with firearms at airport checkpoints face a civil penalty. The TSA says firearms may be allowed in checked baggage when they are unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case.

 

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37 COMMENTS

  1. But…. if they catch and convict this already convicted felon there, will there be “racial outrage” demanding justice and violent protests and will “racial justice” groups and the ACLU and the Brady group and the BLM movement bestow upon him sainthood?

      • I’m honestly trying to understand how a convicted felon with an illegally possessed firearm could one day just decide: “Sure, I should bring this loaded gun to the airport, stuffed in my luggage, and then just go ahead and run it through the x-ray machine. That machine is just for show, and won’t discover the EASIEST POSSIBLE THING that it can detect. Nothing could possibly go wrong with this brilliant plan! If my exceptionally hidden gun IS found (on some wild, unbelievably unlikely chance) my backup plan will be to ignore instructions, paw at it with my big ‘ol mitts, squeeze off a round for funsies, flee past the security cameras, police, and panicked crowds, and make good my escape. I would rather do all that than just sit at home plotting my next crime while going undetected by police… you know, for reasons.”

  2. “We were fortunate that when the firearm went off, no one was seriously injured,” Robert Spinden, the TSA’s director of federal security for Georgia, said at the airport briefing.

    Those pesky guns committing autonomous “gun violence” all on their own.

    • We try to avoid ATL as much as possible. Charlotte renovated a while back so is nicer and traffic not nearly as bad as the nightmare known as Atlanta.

    • JWM,

      Sorry you have to fly at all. I will not get on a plane, train, bus, or submarine until the mask mandates are gone. Made that clear to my employer; no push back from them, so far.

      • Death in the family. I will attend the memorial service. It was put off until after the holiday. Traveling is tough this time of year and with the restrictions. A lot of flights are cancelled or cut back.

        This flu has crippled this country. It saddens me to see how weak we’ve become.

      • TSA is the reason I have flown only once since 9/11/01- and that was a one-way flight within my own state back in ’09. In the five decades prior to 9/11, I flew to Europe (8×), the Caribbean, Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

        It is not a fear of flying that has kept me off commercial aircraft…

        • I’m glad I’m not the only one. You can also add “brightline” rail service in Florida to your list, they have tsa-style crap too, and those idiots are trying to build more rail lines in this country.

        • Good to know. Have not used rail- it’s not power wheelchair-friendly. And my math was off (that’s why I have a B.A. in Philosophy)- the prior four decades to 9/11 (I’m in my fifth decade).

  3. Poor Guy, he just wanted to get on a plane and go somewhere. I’m sure it was an honest mistake, that he forgot he wasn’t allowed to carry a loaded firearm in his carry on luggage. If he had checked an unloaded gun, in a TSA approved locked carrying case, everything would have been just fine.

    The whole “Felony Thing” is just silly, he served his time and he is out and free. Surely, a Black man deserves the same right to protect himself, especially if his occupation is really dangerous, as a white person. The whole, “let’s arrest this guy”, is just another form of Racism. Where are the professional racial poverty pimps when we need them. Come on Al and Jesse, you need to step up and defend this man, as no one else will.

  4. We need a new law, making it illegal for convicted felons to smuggle guns through TSA checkpoints. That will solve everything.

  5. The media is licking their wounds over the unanimous acquittal of KR. They won’t pay attention to small potatoes. They want something big so they can use it to even the score…That is if they are not broke from KR suing their socks off.

    I hope the lad KR and his mom et al enjoy a long healthy wealthy life. They deserve it.

    • “I hope the lad KR and his mom et al enjoy a long healthy wealthy life. They deserve it.”

      Nick Sandmann was interviewed by Hannity and he offered to talk to Kyle, if he wanted.

      I hope Kyle takes him up on the offer…

  6. There is plenty of stupid to deal with already in airports.

    He needs 10 years added to his sentence just for being stupid beyond repair.

  7. So, the media should be reporting:

    “Convicted felon attempts to bring loaded handgun through TSA checkpoint at airport, grapples with agent and negligently discharges firearm during search, then flees airport with illegally-possessed handgun. Police are searching for (show photo, state name, give description/criminal history/possible location/direction of travel, and to avoid direct contact with dangerous, armed felon).”

    I have yet to see a candid report by the media- have you?

    Not surprised…

  8. So…illegal gun owner (felon)…at the airport…loaded gun …in carry-on bag.
    Plenty of laws already on the books for THIS one.
    Will he get hit with the federal felon in possession…or will that get plead out/down?
    10 years sounds about right….but bet it ends up probation.

    • I’m not a lawyer and don’t portray one in any entertainment or otherwise media which of course would then make me an expert, but it is my understanding that the penalty for felon in possession at the federal level is an 8 year bottom. That means it is a must serve eight years before any consideration for other disposition.

  9. This is a clear indication as to just how worthless the TSA is.

    The fact that this incident can be reported to this degree of detail AND still not have the guy says more than any other aspect of this story. Nothing else means anything in comparison.

    • Reason magazine just published a 20 year retrospective on TSA, which called for it’s dissolution. Their reasoning was the 95% undetected weapons rate in one test, and 67 out of 70 in another series of tests. By those numbers, Kenny Wells was just unlucky, and 19 other armed felons made it through to catch their flights.

      I remember a story of a guy as Colorado Springs Airport went through TSA several times because he kept going outside to smoke. They didn’t notice the shotgun in the bottom of his duffle bag until the third time through.

      • I’ve heard the TSA management have delusions of grandeur of being among the elite lettered agencies.

        In reality they are the butt-monkey of agencies ranked with lower regard than the ATF.

        An insider ran his own blog titled “Taking Sense Away”. If you had a low opinion of the TSA before, you will have an even lower opinion of the TSA afterwards.

  10. And what terrible thing would have happened if he had boarded the plane with an OH MY GOD gun? Most likely nothing. He would have landed and disembarked and life would have gone on.

    Guns should not prohibited on planes. Nor knives, or nail clippers, nor anything else.

    Felons who have served their time should not prohibited from owning or carrying

    TSA is a fucking joke, should all be fired, and the security theater they are engaging in should be stopped immediately.

    The supposed reason for all of this is an event that will NEVER happen again. Once some guys flew planes into buildings any and all cooperation with hijackers ended. Now if you try to light your shoe or underwear on fire the person next to you who does not want to meet Allah and cash in the virgin card will beat the living crap out of you.

    • “And what terrible thing would have happened if he had boarded the plane with an OH MY GOD gun? Most likely nothing”

      And the fact that he grabbed for the gun despite being told to stay back makes u think this?

  11. Watch lefty Twitter populate with asinine posts along the lines of: “where’s the NRA to stick up for this mans rights? Nowhere because he’s black!!!”

    Wholly unironically ignoring felon status, prohibited place and reckless storage. Always conveniently ignoring criminal behavior because to them this is normal behavior.

  12. Our “just for show” security theater fails once again. How effective is the TSA if one can have a weapon detected, but isn’t placed in custody until the contraband is found and proven to be prohibited or legal? What good are they when after discharge of said contraband, the offender can then escape the checkpoint AND the airport, gun in hand?

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