A 63-year-old man was shot at a security checkpoint in New Orleans international airport after he cut a guard with a machete and sprayed two others with wasp spray.

Richard White entered the airport and went through the Transportation Security Agency pre-check queue where boarding passes are checked when he was confronted by one of the guards, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said.

White responded by spraying the guard with wasp spray, then struck a female officer with a machete, cutting her right arm, Mr Normand said.

White sprayed the male officer again before a third officer shot him, striking him in the left chest, left thigh and left facial area, the sheriff said.

White was still alive and in surgery at a hospital, Mr Normand said.

A bystander received a graze wound to the arm during the scramble to get out of the area and a few people received minor cuts from furniture, the sheriff said.

There was no information at this time of a connection between White and the airport, he said.

“We don’t know if he was travelling. We’re still piecing together witness interviews.”

Brett Leonard, whose flight from San Francisco landed in New Orleans shortly before the attack, says passengers had no indication of what happened until they walked outside after picking up their bags.

He says dozens of police cars were parked outside the terminal with lights flashing, and a nearby police officer told him that someone had attacked a TSA officer moments before. Mr Leonard said he was put into a cab with several strangers as police tried to evacuate the area.

“It was just very confusing – we didn’t know what was going on. No alarm, no announcement, just word of mouth,” Mr Leonard said.

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