Deadly shootout at LAX impacts Utahns home and abroad
Los Angeles • A mass shooting at the world's sixth-busiest airport spelled bedlam for international travelers, including those with Utah ties.
While authorities made sense of the Friday morning attack at Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport, thousands scrambled to adjust their plans. According to FlightAware.com, there were 126 flight cancellations and 232 delays to flights to or from LAX as of 2:30 MDT. And the number of terrified travelers was countless.
Los Angeles resident Jennifer Chan was in Terminal 3 at the time of the shooting, answering work emails when she saw people running.
"It was pure pandemonium," she told The Tribune. "I heard one gunshot as I was told to go down the stairwell."
She was stopped as she approached baggage claim, and police officers began streaming into the airport, she said. Officers told everyone to get down on the ground as they streamed past.
Chan caught several glimpses of the mayhem a little girl holding her dad's hand as she screamed and cried; an adult daughter asking her elderly mother "Are you OK. Can you walk? Can you do this?" as people ran by; a woman screaming "Where is my husband?"
Law enforcement said one Transportation Security Administration officer was killed and three more people were injured after 23-year-old Paul Ciancia opened fire around 9:20 a.m. Police say the Pennsville, N.J., resident pulled a semi-automatic assault rifle out of his bag and began shooting, making his way through the Terminal 3 security screening and into the secure area.
Ciancia was injured in the shootout, police said, and is now in custody. He was carrying a hand-written note that said he "wanted to kill TSA."
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rant refers to how Ciancia believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches and that he's a "pissed-off patriot" upset at former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Ciancia had at least five full 30-round magazines on him, said the official, who was briefed at LAX on the investigation. The official said Ciancia was shot in the mouth and leg by two airport police officers before being apprehended.
Early Friday afternoon, Ciancia's father in New Jersey had called authorities for help in finding his son after the young man sent one of his siblings a text message about committing suicide, Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said.
The chief said he called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. There, two roommates said that they had seen him Thursday and that he was fine, according to Cummings.
It was the first time a TSA officer has been killed in the line of duty since the agency was founded after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Three male patients were taken to Ronald Reagan University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center.
One was in critical condition and two were in fair condition at 1:30 p.m. MDT, according to Lynne McCullough, UCLA emergency medicine physician.
The critical patient and one fair patient suffered gunshot wounds, she said. She did not provide further information, citing privacy concerns.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for all flights that were scheduled to land at LAX, according to Dave Korzep, superintendent of airport operations for the Salt Lake Department of Airports. It was lifted at 5 p.m. MDT.
Officers at Salt Lake City International stepped up patrols throughout the airport as a precaution, Korzep said.
By about 1:30 p.m. MDT, a large throng of air travelers had gathered about a half mile outside of LAX, attempting to get into the airport to catch their noncanceled flights out of other terminals.
Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World of Airports, said flights would leave only from the south end of the airport and at about half their normal rate.
"It will be a carefully orchestrated logistics ballet to get people rescreened," she said. For the most updated information, Lindsey told air travelers to follow @LAX_Official on Twitter.
Jason Perry arrived in Terminal 5 at about 9:10 a.m. PDT, just minutes before the shooting.
The University of Utah's vice president for government relations was traveling to South Korea with other U. officials and state lawmakers to open a campus there.
As the group made its way to baggage claim, panicked people began streaming in from Terminal 3, which is just across the way.
"We were immediately worried. People were shaken. The woman next to us said she was as terrified as she's ever been," Perry said. "Folks were really scared. Our hearts go out to those people who were right in the middle of it."
Initially, Perry said he wasn't sure when he would be able to leave. But later he said it appeared he would be able to take his flight to South Korea on Friday night. He hadn't been allowed to leave the Terminal 5 area to go to the international terminal for several hours, but he eventually made his way over.
He said police officers and K-9 units were searching the area and helicopters were flying overhead all morning and through the afternoon.
"A lot of folks are impacted, and we totally understand it," he said. "We'll get on another flight when we can. We'll be OK."
State Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-Washington County, was sitting next to Perry. At 1:10 p.m., he tweeted: #LAX still locked down (at least terminals 3-5). Zero info over intercom, other than "white zone is for passenger loading."
The shootings also may affect Utah's sports scene. The University of Hawaii was scheduled to play Utah State at 2 p.m. Saturday in Logan, but after their charter flight was rerouted, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported the team was not expected to arrive in Salt Lake City until early Saturday morning. Because the team was arriving so late, Mountain West Conference officials were in negotiations with the CBS Sports Network to delay the kickoff, but it was later announced the that game would begin at its originally scheduled time.
Passengers on Delta Flight 1459 to Salt Lake City were lucky. Farmington resident Norm Greenleaf said the crew from the plane's previous flight, from Cincinnati, decided to stay on the plane for its next leg since they wouldn't be able to leave the airport anytime soon and the replacement crew was stranded on the other side of security. Ultimately, they were only delayed 20 minutes.
"It was nice of them," Greenleaf said. "I was impressed."
No flights to or from Salt Lake City were scheduled during the FAA ground stop on Terminal 3 airlines: Allegiant Air, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit, Virgin America and Virgin Australia.
Greenleaf and other Delta passengers were in Terminal 5 at the time of the commotion. He said travelers huddled around TV screens to read the rapidly scrolling closed captioning on the local news. "We were in the dark," he said.
Cameron Macdonald, of Adelaide, Australia, sardonically feigned surprise that American travelers were so entranced by TV reports of a mass shooting. "Apparently that's not normal in the States."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Celebrities caught up in LAX shooting
LAX is the international hub for stars in and out of Hollywood, and a few celebrities were among the travelers caught up in the chaos following the deadly shooting at the airport Friday morning.
With time on their hands, they took to Twitter to update fans.
"At (hash)lax Some (expletive) shot up the place." James Franco, who included a self-portrait in an airplane window seat. His publicist confirmed the actor was a passenger on a flight that landed Friday morning after the shooting occurred.
"Currently waiting on the plane in a remote parking area. I am safe. Praying for the victims of this shooting." Nick Jonas, who posted moments earlier that the flight he arrived on was set to deplane at the terminal where the shooting occurred.
"Heard gun shots then everyone starting running for the door. Not sure if anyone was hurt. (hash)LAX" "Mythbusters" host Tory Belleci posted Friday morning, followed by a series of tweets and photos updating the situation at the airport throughout the afternoon.
"Almost 4 hrs since the shooting. Still here. 2000+ people. They're handing out waters & snacks. (hash)LAXShooting" Belleci. Discovery confirmed in a statement that he and Grant Imahara were at Terminal 3 on route to Delaware when the shooting occurred.
"Otw to lax and I hear there was a shooting at the terminal I'm going to. No Dallas for me this weekend, hope everyone is ok. I hate u LAX" "Glee" star Mark Salling.
The Associated Press