LAX Returning to Normal after Panic Due to Unfounded Shooter Report
Los Angeles police searched the buildings and found no shooting occurred, police said. Loud noises caused the panic, they said.
The investigation and a ground stop ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration disrupted air travel, causing the diversion of at least 27 flights to other airports and delaying 281 arrivals and departures. Two flights were canceled, the airport said.
Before the panic began, police detained a Zorro-costumed individual in Terminal 7 around 8:40 p.m. Sunday, the airport said in a statement.
“Believing the subject was armed with a sword, several Airport Police officers approached him with weapons drawn out of an abundance of caution. The man was detained, questioned and released. Airport Police determined the sword was plastic,” the statement said.
CNN’s Paul Vercammen, reporting from the airport, said the man was involved in cosplay, or costume play.
Sunday night’s shutdown in Los Angeles closely mirrored a situation at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport two weeks ago when reports of shots inside Terminal 8 panicked travelers and shut down that airport. No actual shooting occurred there either.
The panic in Los Angeles began around 9 p.m. Sunday with reports of an active shooter in Terminal 8, the airport said.
“Word spread quickly through the terminals by word-of-mouth, social media, and additional calls were made to Airport Police about an active shooter in other terminals, with some reporting having heard gunshots. Many passengers and employees evacuated onto the airfield and into the Central Terminal Area roadways,” the statement said.
Video showed people sprinting out of the airport terminals. People told CNN reporters that travelers rushed through exits into restricted areas.
Police evacuated the terminals and conducted a search with K9 search units. The delay lasted about 30 minutes, the airport said, and then travelers re-entered and were rescreened.
“Report of shooting at LAX proven to be LOUD NOISES only. No shots fired; no injuries. Investigation continues to locate source,” Andy Neiman, commanding officer of Los Angeles police media relations, said in a tweet.
The FAA lifted the ground stop around 1 a.m. Monday, but by that time fights had been diverted. Twelve of those flights were diverted to Ontario International Airport.
Traffic became congested around the Central Terminal Area as police closed roads. The roads were reopened around 10:30 p.m.
In the New York incident this month, two people reported hearing what they thought were shots fired, law enforcement sources said then. Police went floor to floor to clear the airport and ensure there was nothing to be found, a source said. Surveillance video from inside the terminal did not show any shooting.
Police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey evacuated the terminal out of caution, spokesman Joe Pentangelo said.
There were no injuries or arrests, although officials said it’s possible that hoax 911 calls and word of mouth led to the panic.