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LAX back to normal after false active shooter report causes panic

By Shawn Price and Allen Cone

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Operations at Los Angeles International Airport returned to normal Monday after false reports of an active shooter caused panic Sunday night, including passengers running onto the tarmac.

The turmoil caused 281 delays -- 120 arrivals and 161 departures -- two cancellations and 27 flight diversions, including 12 to Ontario airport, according to an LAX release Monday. One person was injured while being trampled.

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The reports of an active shooter apparently were linked to earlier reports at 8:40 p.m. of a man dressed as Zorro in black with a sword and wearing a mask, LAX said in the statement. Several officers approached him with weapons drawn. He was detained, questioned and released after police determined the sword was plastic.

Then around 9 p.m., police responded to a call of an active shooter in Terminal 8 at LAX. Terminals 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were affected, with many people running from the terminals, including onto the tarmac. The main terminal was shut down to traffic, Los Angeles Police Department said.

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"Word spread quickly through the terminals by word-of-mouth, social media, and additional calls were made to Airport Police about an active shooter in other terminals, with some reporting having heard gunshots," the release said. "Many passengers and employees evacuated onto the airfield and into the Central Terminal Area roadways. An investigation, that included review of closed-circuit television footage, revealed that no shots were fired."

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Flights were also stopped for the next 30 minutes but it took about 90 minutes to get the airport terminals cleared for passengers to re-enter the airport, including retrieving their luggage in baggage claim. Officers cleared all impacted terminals with explosive-detection K-9 units.

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt had just arrived at LAX when he heard reports of an active shooter.

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"We were about to walk upstairs when people began flooding out," Holt told NBC4. "Passengers, security people... I heard, 'shots fired' or 'active shooter,' 'run.'"

Nancy Mojarras was among several travelers who fled Terminal 7 while waiting for her 10 p.m. flight to Fresno, Calif., in the United Club Lounge. She heard people storming into the lounge.

"Someone said there was a shooter," Mojarras told the Los Angeles Times.

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Several doezen people made their way down two flights of stairs out of a restricted exit and onto the tarmac, she said. One man fell down, scraping his arm and hand, and was bleeding.

Another passenger, Anne Dudek, an actress from Santa Monica, also fled from Terminal 7 after her United Airlines flight arrived about 8:30 p.m.

She said a panicking man warned everyone to run because people were being shot.

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"People started dropping bags and running out of the terminal," told the Los Angeles Times. "Panic spread."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the situation got out of hand quickly.

"It's almost like a game of telephone, by the time people were hearing things, I think they heard it was an active shooter ... that's when chaos can break out," Garcetti said on radio station KNX-AM. "It wasn't really the technology, it was just ... one person yelling out to another and yelling to another."

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After a shooting incident two years ago at LAX, a system was instituted to send text messages to people, he said. But because law enforcement officials didn't know the situation was safe, they didn't send out a message.

Two weeks ago, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport was shut down after reports of shots inside Terminal 8 panicked travelers. No actual shooting occurred there either.

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