A passenger 'lunged' into his bag and discharged a gun after a TSA officer spotted it via x-ray

A passenger 'lunged' into his bag and discharged a gun after a TSA officer spotted it via x-ray
Passengers gather near Delta airline's counter as they check-in their luggage at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., May 23, 2021.Reuters/Carlos Barria
  • A passenger accidentally discharged a gun at a checkpoint in a busy Atlanta airport on Saturday.
  • The TSA said the man "lunged" into his bag when the gun was flagged by the x-ray machine.

A passenger sparked panic and chaos at an Atlanta airport on Saturday after he "lunged" into his bag and discharged a firearm that had been flagged on a security x-ray machine, the TSA said Saturday.

An officer at the main security checkpoint of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport noticed the gun via the x-ray machine, told the passenger not to touch the bag, and then opened the bag's compartment containing the gun, TSA officials said in a statement. But the passenger then "lunged into the bag and grabbed a firearm, at which point it discharged."

The passenger fled the scene, running out of the adjacent airport exit while still holding the gun, TSA federal security director Robert Spinden told reporters at a press conference.

Police identified the suspect as 42-year-old Kenny Wells and said they've issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of 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," Maj. Reginald Moorman of the Atlanta Police Department said at the press conference


The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport called the incident an "accidental discharge" and emphasized that there was no active shooter. The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. and the Atlanta Police Department gave an "all-clear" by 3:20 p.m., the TSA said.

By Saturday evening, the airport said operations were "quickly returning to normal."

The TSA said three people received non-life-threatening injuries.

Passengers told Insider's Katie Balevic they heard screams and saw waves of "terrified people" running to safety. A number of photos and videos on social media showed the frenzied aftermath of the discharge. Passengers ran or took cover on the ground, knocking over security barriers and abandoning luggage.