Atlanta to Phoenix flight passengers frightened by accidental gunfire before hopping on plane

Passengers on incoming flights to Phoenix from Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 20 could say they had a bit of a scare before getting on a plane and heading to the desert.

A gun went off accidentally at Atlanta's airport.

It's the kind of incident that can make traveling even more stressful, especially during the peak in travel season.

Panic broke out on Saturday, Nov. 20 at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia as gunfire erupted at the security area. Witnesses heard a loud bang and began running for cover, concerned it was an active shooting.

Atlanta police said a gun was accidentally fired at the airport near the main security checkpoint and three people were hurt during the evacuation – they are going to be OK and weren't shot.

Some of those passengers took off to Phoenix and expressed their frustration over the incident once they landed.

The weapon was found going through the X-Ray machine at the security checkpoint. TSA says its officer told the passenger not to touch the bag but instead he reportedly lunged forward, grabbed the firearm, and it then discharged.

The agency says the passenger then fled the area running out of the airport exit, forcing all airport activity to stop for a couple of hours while they investigated. His name is Kenny Wells, 42, and authorities have issued warrants for his arrest.

'There was a lot of chaos'

Denise Kissee arrived in Phoenix at Sky Harbor International Airport and said, "We were probably about two rows back waiting to get through security when we heard a bang and then heard somebody yell ‘get down on the floor,’ and the next thing we heard was, ‘run, run, run.’"

Alexis Escobedo says, "There was a lot of chaos. I think a couple of people may have gotten injured just from running out."

Robin Sweeney was waiting for her daughter to arrive at Sky Harbor. "Lots of tears, very emotional when you're tired. She's been flying since 5:15 eastern time this morning trying to get home," she said about her daughter.

Sweeney says her daughter traveled through three airports on Nov. 20, including Atlanta, because of flight delays.

"She was supposed to be here at 1:30, she’s the maid of honor at her best friend's wedding and the wedding started at 4. So I’m here waiting for her suitcase and she's on her way down here as soon as she gets off the airplane so then I can get her to this wedding. She missed the wedding, missed her best friend's wedding, but she will be at the reception," Sweeney said.

Kissee was worried she was going to get hurt at the Atlanta airport as travelers made a run for it. "I kept thinking through my mind, don’t get trampled 'cause it was a madhouse. It really was bad," she said.

Millions of travelers expected during Thanksgiving holiday

"TSA expects to screen about 20 million passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday," the agency said in a news release on Nov. 20.

The dates for near "pre-pandemic" travel numbers are from Nov. 19-28.

More than two million people passed through TSA checkpoints on Nov. 19 alone, which is the most since the pandemic began and it’s expected to be about the same every day this week. To put it into perspective, that’s double last year's travel numbers.

TSA is offering tips to help ease travel times and ensure making your flight.

"The best way to ensure a smooth trip through the security screening process is to arrive early and be prepared. Travelers are encouraged to allow time to park their cars or return rental cars, check their bags with their airline, and get their boarding passes before heading to the security checkpoint. TSA recommends travelers getting to the terminal with plenty of time before their scheduled flight," TSA said.

In regards to the accidental shooting incident, No. 8 of TSA's travel tips is "be aware."

"As a reminder, public awareness is key for supporting TSA’s security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember: If You See Something, Say Something™. For additional information about TSA’s screening policies, visit," the agency said.

Read more on the tips here.

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