LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A traffic stop of a suspected stolen vehicle outside of a terminal caused a scare at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said Sunday.
The incident unfolded just after 9 a.m. when airport police say someone drove the vehicle into the airport and stopped outside of Terminal 3.
According to Ed Mertz, a reporter for KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO, police had been following the vehicle after an officer identified it as being stolen.
“We would never stop a felony inside of the terminal but he stopped at the curb, the vehicle stopped himself at the curb to let out passengers, causing the officer to take action at that point,” said Rob Pedregon, a public information officer for Los Angeles Airport Police.
He said officers cordoned off the area, called for a canine to sniff for explosives while moving people away and into the terminal.
That’s when some went beyond the security screening areas.
“I don’t know if it was so much of a panic,” said Pedregon of the passengers. “They were very concerned for themselves.”
Pedregon says that’s what caused the security breach, and some even made it to the airfield. Those passengers were subsequently rounded up and brought back to public areas, and all had to be re-screened. Many took to social media:
The driver of the vehicle has been arrested.
Though authorities initially indicated that the entire terminal was evacuated, they have since said that the incident did not require a hard evacuation.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released the following statement:
“During a traffic stop and the apprehension of three auto theft suspects this morning at LAX, airport security in Terminal 3 temporarily moved about 20 passengers onto the tarmac out of an abundance of caution. There were no shots fired or evacuations. The suspects were taken into custody without incident, operations have returned to normal, and we will keep the public apprised of any further developments.
I understand that events around the world have caused travelers everywhere to have a heightened level of concern for their safety. The millions of people whose journeys begin, end, or pass through LAX should know that it has the finest, most prepared airport police force and federal security personnel in the nation — and that their safety and protection will always be our number-one priority.”
As of 12:30 p.m., authorities said operations at the terminal were returning to normal. The incident comes exactly a week after loud noises set off panic as some believed there was an active shooter inside a terminal.