Attacker in New Orleans airport had home-made bombs in bag

NEW ORLEANS (REUTERS/AFP) - The man who attacked security agents at a New Orleans airport on Friday night had six home-made bombs in a bag, officials said at a news conference on Saturday.

The man, 62-year-old Richard White, was shot three times by a Sheriff’s deputy as he brandished a machete and chased a Transportation Security Administration agent.

Earlier he sprayed other agents at an airport security checkpoint with wasp repellent.

White, who was earlier unconscious and in a critical condition in a local hospital and who has since died, dropped a bag that contained six half-pint mason jars with cloth wicks in gasoline, commonly known as a molotov cocktails, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said at a news conference. The bag also contained a barbecue lighter, he said.

In White’s car, which was found at the airport, officials found smoke bombs, an acetylene tank, a freon tank and an oxygen tank.

Normand said the purpose of the tanks was unknown.

He added that White had a mental illness issue. He had refused some types of medical attention because of religious beliefs.

Witnesses said White had acted in a “calm, cool, collected” manner prior to the attack, Normand said.

“No one at this point in time has any notion of what triggered this behaviour,” he added.

Carol, a TSA agent who did not give her last name at the news conference, praised Lieutenant Heather Slyve of the sheriff’s office, who shot White at the scene.

“Officer Slyve is my hero,” Carol said. “She probably saved my life because he was within inches of whacking me... She saved a lot of people’s lives. This man was swinging very hard with the machete.”

White had worked as a taxi driver, had recently received his chauffeur’s license and had “little or no criminal history,” Normand revealed.

A neighbour, Donna Jackson, told The Times-Picayune newspaper that White was a former Army serviceman, who had retired years ago and was living off Social Security and disability cheques.

“He was so meek, so mild,” she added, saying he was a deeply religious Jehovah’s Witness who shunned Western medicine and encouraged his neighbour to use herbal remedies, even to treat her diabetes.