An unintentional discharge of a gun at an Atlanta’s international airport sparked chaos on Saturday and sent some travelers ducking for cover and crawling on the floor in fear, according to video footage shared on social media.
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said the weapon discharge was “accidental,” and that there was no harm to passengers or employees after rumors circulated that there was an active shooter inside the building.
“There is not an active shooter,” Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tweeted. “There was an accidental discharge at the Airport. There is no danger to passengers or employees.”
There is not an active shooter. There was an accidental discharge at the Airport. There is no danger to passengers or employees. An investigation is ongoing, more information will be published on this channel.
— Atlanta Airport (@ATLairport) November 20, 2021
The airport said the incident occurred at around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in the security screening area, and police are now investigating the cause. It is unclear who was responsible for the discharge or any other circumstances surrounding the incident.
Footage posted to social media appeared to show panicked travelers lying on the ground and seeking cover throughout the airport. Individuals could be heard screaming “get down,” while people crawled for safety with their personal items strewn across the floor.
An unintentional gun discharge in the Atlanta airport caused mass panic today among passengers who thought there was an active shooter.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) November 20, 2021
Twitter user Dianne Callahan said she heard people screaming while boarding her flight to New York, and shared an image of what appeared to be people evacuated onto the airport tarmac.
“I am at the Atlanta Airport, boarded my flight to New York when we heard screams. @Delta is trying to calm people down. We heard screams as people were boarding,” Callahan wrote.
The is what I am seeing outside my window. I am at the Atlanta Airport, boarded my flight to New York when we heard screams. @Delta is trying to calm people down. We heard screams as people were boarding. pic.twitter.com/y2wEp974NC
— Dianne Callahan (@DianneCallaha16) November 20, 2021
Another Twitter user, Kevin Helgren, said people began running and screaming once it became feared that there was an active shooter.
“Was walking towards security in Atlanta airport when folks told me to stop walking. Unconfirmed reports of active shooter. 50-60 gathered at my end of airport. Was calm for 5 mins, then everyone started running and screaming. Took train one stop north. Haven’t received info,” he wrote.
Was walking towards security in Atlanta airport when folks told me to stop walking. Unconfirmed reports of active shooter. 50-60 gathered at my end of airport. Was calm for 5 mins, then everyone started running and screaming. Took train one stop north. Haven’t received info. #ATL
— Kevin Helgren (he/him/his) (@kevinhelgren) November 20, 2021
Erika Zeidler, who was traveling from Atlanta to Anchorage, Alaska, told CNN that she took cover inside a TGI Friday’s restaurant after she saw people running for safety.
“We assumed they were late for a flight,” she told the news outlet. “Then all of a sudden more people started running down the terminal and were screaming there was a shooter.”
The surprise discharge prompted the airport to briefly halt all departing flights, while arriving flights experienced delays. However, by around 3:30 p.m. the airport tweeted that normal operations were resumed.
“Officials have given an all-clear for #ATLAirport and normal operations are beginning. Information for passengers and employees will be provided on ATL’s social media feeds and in the airport’s public address system,” the airport tweeted.
The Saturday incident comes as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reporting record numbers of travelers ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. On Friday alone, the agency said it screened more than 2.2 million travelers, marking the highest number of travelers since the start of the pandemic.
Newsweek contacted the Atlanta Police Department for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
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