ATLANTA - An airport officer is recovering after he was involved in a life-or-death struggle with a man police say tried to take his weapon.
It happened in the police precinct at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport on Christmas as travelers looked on. Some tried to help. Most of the altercation was captured on surveillance video.
Atlanta police arrested 20-year-old Juan Carter of Colorado. He faces aggravated battery, attempting to remove an officer's weapon, felony obstruction of an officer and second degree criminal damage to property.
Police said Carter had, for some reason, missed several flights home and officers helped him rebook a flight for the next day. He was waiting in the precinct for relatives to pick him up and then officers said at some point he said, "Don't nobody want me." That's when the tussle for the gun began.
The video showed Carter pacing around the lobby of the precinct as an officer sits at a desk just after 6 p.m. Wednesday. The officer confronted him as he hovers close to a door leading to offices inside the precinct, "And for an unexplained reason the subject attempted to take the officers weapon," Maj. Lane Hagin told Channel 2s Tom Jones.
The video showed the officer engaged in a struggle on the floor with his attacker for several minutes. At one point, the attacker has the officer pinned down after the two knock over a Christmas tree. "You can see the officer turning away trying to keep his weapon away from the guy," Hagin explains.
Airport travelers can be seen at the precinct lobby glass window watching, some trying to get inside and help.
"You can see them pulling at the door and then one of them actually ran and found an officer and said, 'Hey, you need to get to your precinct. You got one of your buddies in there fighting,'" Hagin said.
A visitor to Atlanta, who walked by and saw the commotion said his instincts took over.
"My immediate response is I actually tried to open the door to assist the officer in detaining the gentleman," the witness said.
The door was locked, and he and the other witnesses couldn't get in to help. Meanwhile, the officer got control of his attacker.
Seconds later, a cavalry of officers arrived and subdued Carter. Police said they had to shock him with a stun gun to get him under control.
Hagin doesn't know what set Carter off or why he wanted that weapon so badly.
"We're not sure if he had some underlying issues that he would need to have addressed. Maybe perhaps mental issues," Hagin said.
Hagin said the officer did a great job in a life-threatening situation.
"I would say the officer's life was in jeopardy. Anytime someone's trying to take your weapon and you have to fight for it that's a serious fight," he said.
The officer suffered minor scrapes and bruises.