Cause Of LAX Chaos Still Unknown

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Authorities are still working Tuesday to determine what originally set off the panic at Los Angeles International Airport that was fueled by false reports of gunfire.

Sunday night’s scare resulted in the 27 flights being diverted to other airports, LAX police Officer Robert Pedregon said.

Three people were taken to a hospital Sunday night for minor injuries apparently caused by surging crowds as people rushed to evacuate terminals, Pedregon said. Terminals 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were affected, he said.

Hundreds of flights were impacted – 120 arriving flights and 161 departures were delayed, according to LAX Public Relations Director Nancy Castles. Two flights were canceled, she said.

Pedregon said Tuesday that it was unclear what caused the sounds that people said they heard in Terminal 8 and that led to the false reports of gunfire.

Authorities have interviewed witnesses but have formed no theory as to what it was that people heard, Pedregon said.

Just before the report of gunfire, police detained a man in Terminal 7 dressed as Zorro, wearing all black with a mask and carrying what turned out to be a plastic sword.

The man told officers that he works for tips posing for photos with tourists on Hollywood Boulevard, and claimed he was meeting someone at the airport. He was released after questioning, and is not believed to have been involved in the reports of gunfire, Pedregon said.

During the incident, airport staff used audio and visual messages to keep passengers apprised of flights and delays, Castles said. Concessions stayed open past closing time to serve passengers on delayed or diverted flights.

Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection agents continued past the end of their shifts to screen passengers whose departure was delayed and those arriving for delayed flights.

Airport terminals were evacuated and roadways into the airport were shut down, causing gridlock on area streets.

Officers and teams with bomb-detecting dogs searched the terminal area but found no indication of an active shooter.

Throughout the event, the public and passengers were kept informed of developments, and a new wireless emergency alert system passed information to cell phone customers within five miles of the airport, LAX police Chief Dave Maggard said.

“We are grateful it was not actually an active shooter,” he said.

Following an intense search of the areas, an “all-clear” was issued about 9:50 p.m., but a logjam of vehicles and people stranded by the evacuations brought airport operations to a crawl.

All passengers needed to be re-screened through airport security before returning to the terminal, authorities said

Departure and arrival roadways into the Central Terminal Area reopened about 10:50 p.m. Sunday, LAX officials said.

The scare affected air traffic nationwide, as flights in and out of LAX from airports across the country were re-routed or canceled.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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