False report of shooter at Los Angeles airport spawns panic, hundreds of flight delays

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 2:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 2:14am

Operations were returning to normal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Monday morning, after false reports of an active shooter sent passengers stampeding from terminals and, in some cases, onto the tarmac.

Reports of gunfire in Terminals 6, 7 and 8 were made about 8:45 pm Sunday night, prompting airport police to set up a command post and shut down the central terminal area to incoming traffic.

As a further precaution, flight operations were stopped from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the airport’s two southern runways because passengers, who self-evacuated from the terminals, ran onto the restricted airfield.

An investigation, which included review of closed-circuit television footage, revealed no shots were fired, according to LAX. Airport police are continuing to investigate what caused the incident, but a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said the panic was due to “loud noises.”

“Report of shooting at LAX proven to be LOUD NOISES only No Shots Fired No Injuries investigation continues to locate source,” LAPD Capt. Andrew Neiman wrote in a tweet late Sunday night.

During the 30-minute ground stop, 27 arriving flights were diverted to other airports — 12 diverting to Ontario International Airport. By early Monday morning, passengers from just one diverted flight had yet to arrive at LAX.

There were 281 arrivals and departures that were delayed, according to the airport. Airlines reported two cancelled flights.

Later in the evening, authorities prepared to allow passengers who fled from the terminals to re-enter baggage claim areas and gather the luggage they had left behind.

Before airport police received reports of an active shooter, they detained a man dressed as Zorro in Terminal 7 around 8:40 p.m. Police had received reports of a man dressed in black with a sword, wearing a mask.

The man was detained, questioned and released. Airport police determined the sword was plastic.

Authorities said all terminals, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal, had been cleared by Los Angeles Airport Police by 10:45 p.m. and passengers were allowed to return.