A ground-stop order was issued by the FAA, with all flights being stopped in and out of this busy airport serving America’s second largest city.
Eyewitnesses say a male gunman opened fire with a high-powered rifle at a document checkpoint near the Virgin America terminal. Other reports indicated the gunman was shot and taken into police custody, and that a TSA official was shot and killed at the scene.
UPDATE: The suspect was identified as Paul Ciancia, who was arrested and hospitalized after being shot by police. Ciancia allegedly killed TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez at the scene.
An evacuated passenger, Robert Perez, told CBS that “I heard popping and everybody dropped to the ground.”
Authorities evacuated all of the massive airports terminals after the incident. Passengers in Terminal 3, where the incident occurred, were told by security personnel to run out. The LAX fire department referred to the situation as a “multi-patient incident,” and news footage showed injured people being moved and treated, including at least one person brought out in a wheelchair and another wearing some kind of uniform, possibly for the TSA. Media are confirming that at least three people are being injured, and medical personnel preparing to receive even more.
Police officers could still be seen hours later walking outside the airport with weapons drawn. Temporary structures were set up outside the terminal, and SWAT teams were posted with sniper rifles on top of nearby buildings. Footage clearly showed medical first responders setting out three different colored tarps– red, yellow, and green– in what appeared to be setup for a large-scale triage operation. This indicated authorities were setting up for a long-term situation.
Travelers were hiding wherever they could immediately after the incident, blocking doors with photocopiers or sheltering under seats or in bathroom stalls. A tweet from Tory Bellecci, host of the Mythbusters TV show, who was in the terminal at the time and also posted pictures, read “Heard gun shots then everyone starting running for the door. Not sure if anyone was hurt. #LAX.”
The streets that cycle through the airport, normally choked with traffic on a Friday morning when many people travel, were eerily empty, except for fire and rescue vehicles and those being used by airport staff. Travelers were evacuated by buses, shuttles, and other vehicles, with those in the LAX terminal where the shots were fired having been evacuated immediately after, and more evacuations then occurring from the airport’s other terminals as well.
Traffic near the airport was stopped as well, with the 105 closed at Sepulveda, and drivers on Sepulveda abandoning their immobile cars due to the long stoppage.
This incident comes after a few weeks of security threats at the Los Angeles International Airport. A former TSA agent had been making threats against the airport, and some contract workers were arrested after planting dry ice bombs in in the airport as well. But the shooting is the most serious threat to the security of travelers and airport personnel in recent history.
The mayor and police chief were both reported to have arrived on the scene at LAX, at the set-up incident headquarters. President Obama had also been briefed on the situation.
In any case, no one with a flight at LAX this morning could expect to be able to board, and travelers were being advised to the airport.
Other reports indicated some arriving flights were permitted to land as necessary, but these airplanes were being lined up and parked as far out on the tarmac away from the terminal as possible. For hours, no flights are leaving the airport, and that areas of LAX airport were still being evacuated after the shots fired.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing