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Accidental gun discharge at Atlanta airport causes panic, departures halted



A passenger accidentally discharged a gun at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, causing panicked travelers to flee and briefly halting departures Saturday afternoon, officials said.

About 1:30 p.m., a transportation security officer was checking a bag after the X-ray machine identified a prohibited item, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The officer told the passenger not to touch the bag, but “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 TSA said in a written statement.

The passenger then ran out the airport exit, according to the TSA.

The airport tweeted that there was not an active shooter and that a firearm had accidentally gone off.

Officials gave the all-clear just before 3:30 p.m.

Cellphone video captured frightened travelers lying on the ground inside the airport. Other footage showed passengers getting off planes and waiting on the tarmac and around the terminals, according to NBC affiliate WXIA of Atlanta.

The airport said there was no danger to passengers or employees and the incident is being investigated.

A spokesman with the Atlanta Police Department said no injuries were reported, however, the TSA said early reports indicated three people had injuries not thought to be threatening. No additional details have been provided about the reported injuries.

Police have not said whether any arrests have been made or if anyone has been charged in the incident.

Following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration halted departures. The airport said normal operations are beginning to resume.

The TSA said the incident should remind passengers of “the importance of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before leaving for the airport.”

TSA officers have come across more than 450 firearms at checkpoints in the Atlanta airport this year, the agency said.

“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,” the TSA said.

The agency said it assesses civil penalties when travelers bring firearms to airport checkpoints. The penalties vary based on any previous offenses and whether the firearm was loaded at the time.



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