At Mardi Gras time, you would expect to find images of strings of colored beads, king cake and other trinkets in carry-on luggage at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) checkpoint.
But not always. Just ask MSY TSA Officer (TSO) Derrick Williams.
For Williams, a three-year TSA employee, finding firearms at the checkpoint is not just a random occurrence. He has found five guns while on duty, and like many of the others, he thought this one an AR styled, semi-automatic firearm, was a test.
“I thought it was a TIP,” said Williams. “When I discovered it wasn’t, I called for a supervisor. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the screen.”
Supervisory TSA Officer James Frederick responded to Williams’ call for assistance, verified the find, located the passenger and immediately called TSA Manager Kevin Schaefer, the MSY Coordination Center and nearby Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Officer Harley Fry.
Fry took control of the carry-on bag and the passenger and conducted a search that produced a loaded (none chambered) Palmetto PA-15 Multi AR .300 caliber firearm. Accompanying the firearm were five additional magazines and the one in the weapon for a total of 163 rounds of ammunition.
Fry initiated a National Crime Information Center call and an FBI check on the passenger. Both came back negative.
The passenger said that in his hurry he grabbed the wrong bag for his travels. Police cited the passenger and allowed him to give the firearm and ammunition to a non-traveling party member as he continued his travels.
“I am just so proud of my workforce for keeping the traveling public safe on a daily basis,” said MSY Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director (FSD) of Screening Brad Meyer. “I commended Derrick on his calm composure when faced with such a powerful/deadly firearm. Great job!”
This catch will count toward an MSY Model Officer Award for Williams, who will also receive a Certificate of Appreciation and a TSA-Louisiana challenge coin from MSY FSD Arden Hudson and an eight-hour time-off award.
Editor’s Note: See related story, TSA Launches Enhanced Firearms Screening. As of this publication date, MSY TSOs have caught 14 firearms at their checkpoints in 2023.