The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. ET when a “prohibited item” was detected in a passenger’s property while going through the X-ray screening at the security checkpoint, Robert Spinden, the Transportation Security Administration’s federal security director for Georgia, said in a news conference. The property was flagged for a “secondary search,” he said.
“During that secondary search, the passenger lunged into his property, grabbing a firearm that was located inside, which ultimately discharged,” Spinden said. “The passenger then fled the security checkpoint through an adjacent exit lane with his firearm.”
“We’re fortunate that when the firearm went off, nobody was seriously injured,” Spinden said.
Three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the TSA said in a statement. Atlanta police had previously said no injuries were reported.
According to a source familiar with the situation, the injured were not shot but instead hurt during the evacuation. All of the injured were adults, the source said, and two were transported to the hospital. The discharged round went into the property of the person who brought the weapon, the source said.
The individual whose weapon was discharged was identified as 42-year-old Kenny Wells, according to Atlanta Police Department Airport Precinct Commander Reginald L. Moorman.
“We have taken out warrants for carrying concealed a weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm and reckless conduct,” Moorman said. “We are actively pursuing this individual.”
Airports spokesperson Andrew Gobeil characterized the discharge as accidental and said the loud noise created a “sense of chaos.”
Airport officials and Atlanta Police know who the individual is, Gobeil told CNN’s Jim Acosta, because the incident occurred while the passenger was being screened.
Erika Zeidler, who was traveling from Atlanta to Anchorage, Alaska, said she was sitting in a restaurant in Concourse T when people began running down the hallway.
“We thought they were late for a flight, and then more and more people started running,” she told Acosta. “There was some screaming and then somebody stopped and said, ‘There’s a shooter, you need to go.'”
An investigation into the incident remains ongoing, Gobeil said.
A ground stop was called for the airport for all departing flights, per the Federal Aviation Administration, but was soon lifted.
Details about the weapon or circumstances surrounding the accidental discharge have not been made available.
The FBI and the ATF are “providing investigative assistance” to the Atlanta police, according to a spokesperson for the ATF. The White House is also “monitoring” the incident, a White House official said, referring questions to local law enforcement.