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'Loud noises' spark utter panic at LA airport, person in Zorro costume detained

A search through terminals brought no evidence of a gunman or shots fired.

Image: Shutterstock/Joseph Sohm

REPORTS OF A gunman opening fire that turned out to be false caused panicked evacuations at Los Angeles International Airport, while flights to and from the airport were delayed.

A search through terminals brought no evidence of a gunman or shots fired, Los Angeles police spokesman Andy Neiman said.

The reports were spurred by loud noises only, and police were still investigating to find the source of them, Neiman said.

Airport officials said that a person wearing a Zorro costume was detained during the incident, but it wasn’t yet clear whether the person had any connection to the evacuation.

Terminals reopening 

The incident still left a mess in its wake.

Terminals were slowly starting to reopen but the passengers who fled will have to be rescreened through security, airport police said.

Roads into the airport were only slowly starting to be reopened, and flights were only slowly resuming again, with massive backup expected for both, officials said.

When the incident began, scores of people could be seen on social media and on TV news running from the terminal out on to the sidewalks and streets as police with rifles out stormed terminals.

Many other evacuees were standing on the airport tarmac, and abandoned bags littered some sidewalks.

“We were on the jetway and someone starts pushing behind us,” Jon Landis, a sales representative from Boston who was boarding a flight home, told The Associated Press.

One man was frantic saying there was a shooter.

Police officers, including one with a shotgun, eventually led passengers out of the terminal, through a security gate, and into a car park — where several hundred passengers waited for the terminal to reopen.

Ninety minutes after the scare, Landis said he was still waiting for word on his flight.

Passengers on the tarmac 

Passenger Scott McDonald said he was getting off a plane in the middle of the incident and was told by the crew to get back on. He said looking out the window he could see many evacuees gathered out on the tarmac, a strange sight even for someone who travels almost constantly.

“I’ve never seen passengers, just normal people, on the tarmac anywhere in the United States,” McDonald told KCAL-TV.

Leyna Nguyen, an anchor for KCAL whose flight happened to arrive just before the panic began, said even false reports “create such a chaotic scene, it’s really scary”.

“I saw people running faster than I’ve ever seen people run just to get out of the way,” Nguyen said.

It came just days after another false alarm led to a panicked evacuation of Kennedy Airport in New York.

In that incident, police were investigating whether an overly boisterous celebration of the Olympics on 14 August led to noises that were misinterpreted as gunfire, with the ensuing chain reaction turning into a panic as crowds ran to evacuate.

The Los Angeles airport had an actual shooting in November 2013, when a man opened fire in the terminal, killing a security agent and wounding three other people.

Read: At least 60 have been killed in a suicide bomb in Yemen >

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Associated Press

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