‘Loud noises’ cause evacuation, ground stop at Los Angeles airport

The central terminal area at Los Angeles International Airport was closed for more than 90 minutes Sunday night after “loud noises” let to reports of an active shooter.

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Andy Neiman confirmed shortly before 10 p.m. that no shooter had been found. Airport police said a man in a Zorro costume had been detained, but it was not clear whether he had any connection to the alert.

Less than an hour earlier, videos on social media showed passengers fleeing terminal buildings. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt was arriving in Los Angeles on a red-eye flight when the panic started.

Anne Dudek of Santa Monica, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times that she was going down the escalator to baggage claim in Terminal 7 when a man ran past her and warned everyone to run because people were being shot. 

“People started dropping bags and running out of the terminal,” she said. “Panic spread.”

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.

The Federal Aviation Administration instituted a ground stop at LAX through at least 10 p.m. local time. Terminals were slowly starting to reopen, but the passengers who fled will have to be rescreened through security, airport police said.

Despite the false alarm, the terminals closure caused traffic to be backed up in every direction. Passengers were advised to check with their airline for details on their flight status.

Sunday’s incident 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 Aug. 14 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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