Calm resumes at Los Angeles airport after imagined mass shooting

Police at Los Angeles Airport found no evidence of shots fired after reports prompted the airport's evacuation.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
A police officer stands guard as passengers wait in line at Terminal 7 in Los Angeles International Airport, Sunday. Reports of a gunman opening fire that turned out to be false caused panicked evacuations at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday night.

The chaos that ensued after gunshots were reported at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday night has subsided, as officials say they found no evidence to back up the reports that caused panic, evacuations, and major flight delays.

A police search through the airport terminals yielded no signs of a gunman or shots fired, Los Angeles police spokesman Andy Neiman told the Associated Press later Sunday night. At press time, police had not yet discovered the source of the loud noises that some mistook for gunshots.

A person wearing a Zorro costume was detained, but no connection had been made between that person and the gunshot reports, according to airport officials.

Social media and television reports at the start of the evacuation showed a mass exodus from the terminal out to the sidewalks, streets, and on the airport tarmac. 

One passenger, Corey Rosenbusch, said he was waiting inside a terminal club during a layover when the lights went off and the staff ordered everyone to shelter in place. 

"People immediately started looking at social media, where they saw reports that there was an active shooter," Mr. Rosenbusch told the AP.

The incident comes two weeks after unconfirmed reports of gunfire at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, which resulted in the evacuation of two terminals and mass panic among passengers. 

One witness at Kennedy, David Wallace-Wells, wrote an account of the chaos and its aftermath for New York Magazine: 

The fact that there had been, actually, nothing to panic about was an enormous relief, of course. But it made things all the more eerie the next morning, when we woke up feeling like survivors of a ghost trauma, a minor local-news story. For several hours, we were in the flood of panic and chaos of an ongoing act of terror. There’s no other way to describe it. That it was an overreaction almost doesn’t matter; in fact, that is how terrorism works.

In response to the incident at Kennedy, Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York asked that the Department of Homeland Security conduct a formal investigation. 

"In the age of ISIS-inspired-and-directed terror attacks, it is a national priority to make sure targets, like our airports, are best prepared to recognize, diffuse and professionally handle the very real threats that confront us," he said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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