Orlando FL Aug 2 2017 A sharp clap rang through the east end of Orlando International Airport’s sprawling terminal on Tuesday, unnerving travelers who thought it was a gunshot. They were right.
A federal agent had accidentally shot himself in the left foot, having somehow dislodged his holstered pistol and pulling the trigger while grasping for the weapon.
It happened on the busy ticketing and departure floor in the multistory atrium at the Hyatt Regency, the noise sounding like a large board falling on tile flooring.
The agent, wearing a vest and T-shirt depicting an American flag and the word “PROUD,” and the overall scene remained calm for several minutes. It was hard to say what had just happened.
“I know that was a gunshot,” said a woman standing at an information kiosk.
Another said she was still shaking from the noise.
Several Transportation Security Administration officers stepped out from their screening stations, then two Orlando police officers arrived. They calmly approached and then questioned the man who would later be treated for a gunshot.
He did not appear to be in distress, but the scene began to draw attention from throngs of passengers and airport workers. At 40 minutes before noon, the crowd passing through the nearby security check was lighter than earlier in the morning.
Ultimately, a mass of law enforcement converged, including an Orlando police officer on a bike and another in plain clothes, and Homeland Security officers.
Police there said the man, with a shaved head and gray goatee, was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent from Kansas City on vacation.
The immigration agency did not respond to a request for comment.
About an hour later, the police department issued a statement, identifying him as a federal agent, saying that while “unslinging a shoulder bag, the bag caught on the agent's holstered weapon.”
“While the weapon was falling, the agent tried to catch the firearm and inadvertently pulled the trigger. A bullet hit the agent in the heel,” according to the statement.
The bullet apparently ripped a gash of several inches in the carpet under a bench near the atrium’s fountain.
First officers and then passengers photographed the tear; it was soon covered with a large, potted plant. The police statement said the bullet was recovered a few feet from the spot of the shooting.
A police spokeswoman later said that as with other law-enforcement personnel, the wounded agent was allowed to fly with a loaded gun with proper documentation.
There are no charges pending, she said.
The victim sat in a wheelchair while being treated by paramedics. His heel was bandaged and a nearby gauze pad was stained with a small amount of blood.
He was able to walk to a stretcher to be taken to a hospital.