There were reports – later deemed false – of an active shooter at LAX on Sunday evening as panicked people posted photos and videos on Twitter saying they had been rushed onto the tarmac for their own protection.
However, by 10 p.m. Pacific time, Los Angeles police said the panic was a false alarm caused by “loud noises,” and the airport called the reports “unfounded.”
Police said they were working to verify what the noises were, though.
There was a heavy law enforcement presence at the airport.
People were still stuck on planes at 10:21 p.m. “Pilot is reporting that no one is still inside. We are still on the Tarmac in the plane,” wrote one man on Twitter. However, other photos showed people lining back up to go through security again. A short time later, CNN reported that the airport was cleared and “operations restarting.”
Videos and photos had shown frightened people fleeing the airport as there were reports of a mass evacuation and active shooter. They also showed people lying face down on the airport floor with officers in the vicinity. One of the most bizarre videos showed police shouting and surrounding a man in a supposed “Zorro” costume. Even stranger? The airport officially confirmed it:
See the video:
And, indeed, someone had gotten a photo of someone in such a costume earlier, although it wasn’t confirmed whether it was the same man.
The “Zorro” video sparked immediate memes and jokes on social media.
CBS Los Angeles interviewed the man, and it turns out he was an actor headed to an audition, who was detained and released. It wasn’t clear whether his detainment had anything to do with starting the panic. Watch the CBS interview with the man here:
But the scene was far from funny earlier in the evening. It was clear from the social media images that people at least thought there might be an active shooter at the airport. CNN said that the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a “ground stop” for all air traffic at LAX as a precaution.
However, LAX Airport and LA Airport police both said quickly on Twitter that a shooting was not confirmed.
NBC News reported, according to multiple law enforcement sources, that: “Police responded to multiple 911 calls from multiple locations at the airport about a possible armed suspect, but police have not found any evidence of an armed suspect, a shooting or anyone who was injured.”
Police were searching the airport, said NBC.
People posted videos of people running, and there were reports that police had told people to run.
Some people posted videos on Periscope. One had thousands of views:
Things calmed down in about an hour.
However, the panic caused major headaches for travelers.
Just two weeks ago, panic and evacuation similarly ensued at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, but there was no active shooter found there, either. The false alarm in L.A. similarly showed people’s heightened fears after legitimate mass shootings in airports in Brussels and Istanbul in recent times, not to mention the Pulse night club and San Bernardino mass shootings.
Things were going back to normal.
For about a half hour to an hour though, people were posting videos and photos of chaos at the Los Angeles International Airport on the evening of August 28 en masse, spreading the word of a possible active shooter throughout social media. One man posted a photo of people lying on the ground as police walked past:
NBC media personality Lester Holt wrote on Twitter: “Arriving at LAX off flight when people started pouring out of term 4 onto Tarmac. Security said ‘shots fired. Run!’ Now in vehicle on taxiwy.” Spanish media reported, “Close terminal 8 of #LAX, several media outlets reported a firefight. The footballer Blas Pérez among those who already took photos inside.” Here is one of those photos:
One man said he was at Terminal 4 and wrote on Instagram: “Possible shooting at LAX. Cops got the ARs with the scopes out. And I’m standing outside taking video like I’m bullet proof.”
Another Twitter user said that hundreds of people had been evacuated onto an airport runway:
Either way, there was a major commotion at the airport:
One man posted that planes at other airports were not being allowed to fly to LAX:
RT reported there was a “mass evacuation” at LAX after reports of an active shooter, and people on social media were praying for LAX as reports were just starting to come in on the incident. As is seen with many of these tragedies, in the first moments, accounts can be sketchy, and sometimes even wrong. However, it was clear that panic had unfolded at LAX as reports of an active shooter spread quickly. Some Twitter users noted the conflicting nature of the reports:
It was not clear for an hour where there was an active shooter or what the motive was if there was one, although ISIS-related terrorist attacks at other airports overseas occurred recently and were on many people’s minds. But that concern eventually evaporated. Loud noises and airports these days do not mix. Still, havoc ensued. One man said on Twitter that he was on “one of 20 planes diverted to Ontario, CA due to false alarm at #LAX- been told we have we are stuck on the plane for at least an hour.”
The airport released a detailed statement outlining what had unfolded: