Chaos, terror unfold inside LAX Terminal 3: 'Gun! Everybody get down'

CNN
Friday, November 1, 2013 - 9:00pm

 Pop. Pop. Pop.

What is that, a number of passengers at Los Angeles International Airport thought? Then came the screams from inside Terminal 3: "A gun! Everybody get down."

By the time the shooting stopped Friday morning, a lone gunman had squeezed off 10 rounds from an assault rifle, according to authorities, killing at least one person and wounding others.

Hours later, with a wounded suspect identified by authorities as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, of Los Angeles, in custody those who survived the shooting rampage painted a terrifying picture of how the attack unfolded:

'Everybody get down'

It was 9:20 a.m. inside the crowded terminal that serves Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America, Frontier Airlines and a number of other commercial carriers.

Dana Starfield was one of the hundreds of passenger waiting to clear security or board flights when the gunman, according to police, walked into the terminal, pulled an assault rifle from a bag and starting firing.

Then she heard a "boom."

"We heard someone scream, 'A gun! Everybody get down, get down,'" Starfield told CNN affiliate KCBS.

Many, including Starfield, had cleared one TSA checkpoint, where her ID and boarding pass were checked. She and others dropped to ground, near the security checkpoint.

"We just crawled through the security gate," she said.

Starfield said Virgin America employees guided her and several others into a small room, where they barricaded the door by moving a copy machine in front of it.

"We heard a few more booms," she said.

About 15 minutes later, she estimates, Los Angeles police SWAT officers came through and led them to safety.

The scariest part

Inside the airport, the gunman breached security after shooting and killing a TSA security officer and wounding others, and passengers scrambled to find safety.

Leslie Rockitter was in the women's bathroom inside the terminal when she heard the shots.

Suddenly, men and women were running into the bathroom seeking cover, she told CNN.

More than two dozen people huddled in the bathroom, many of them ducking into stalls -- doing anything to hide.

The scariest part, Rockitter told CNN, was when they heard shots ringing out in the terminal.

"That brief moment, you just had your life flash before you," she said.

Even after the initial burst of gunfire, she and the others remained in the bathroom for fears there may be a second shooter. After about 40 minutes, they were finally let out.

"He said, 'TSA?'"

Passenger Leon Saryan was reaching for his shoes and belt that he had taken off to clear the TSA security checkpoint when he heard shots.

"Everybody kind of hit the ground and started to run," Saryan said on CNN's AC360.

A TSA officer told him to "grab my stuff and go." But then the officer noticed Saryan, who was on the floor, didn't have his shoes.

"He grabbed the shoes, and the two of us started running down the corridor toward the gates," Saryan said.

That's when the gunman shot the TSA officer, Saryan said. "He got a grazing wound."

Saryan hid in a corner and watched as the shooter "calmly walking down the corridor" toward him.

"He said, 'TSA?'" Saryan said.

"I just shook my head, and he kept going."

What is that sound?

Chuck Ocheret was at Gate 30 at Terminal 3, walking toward the food court, when he heard "a couple of popping noises."

Initially, it didn't register to him and others near him that it was gunfire. "It didn't sound like gunfire," he said.

Then, he turned around.

"There was a stampede of people coming my way, and I realized something was ... wrong," Ocheret said.

"People were screaming, 'Run into the bathroom, get behind something,' " he said.

Ocheret picked up his carry-on bags and ran down a long corridor toward the "point-of-no-return" exit.

"It's a long run when you think you could have a crosshair on your back," he said.

'Getting knocked down'

Alex Neumann was at a food court, waiting to travel to Miami, when he heard the shots.

"People were running and people getting knocked down. There was luggage everywhere," Neumann said. "Mayhem is the best I can describe it."

Several police officers moved about the airport with guns drawn, he said.

'Hid underneath the plane'

Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara, stars of the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters," were waiting for a flight to Delaware that had been delayed when they heard the shots and saw people start to run.

"It didn't register until everybody started, like, flying down the hallway and they were just jumping over chairs, jumping over people, hiding, and we were kind of trapped at the end of the terminal," Belleci told CNN.

A security guard eventually opened an emergency door. "We all piled out onto the tarmac, and just kind of a hid underneath the place," Belleci said.

While Belleci was on the tarmac, Imahara was locked down in the Virgin America first class lounge.

"Virgin promptly locked the lounge doors. About ten minutes later, LAPD armed with automatic weapons arrived to secure the area," Imahara wrote in a post on Twitter.

Four hours later, the two men were still waiting to leave the airport.

"They're processing IDs. The main question is 'Did you see anything?' Been asked by 6 different (people)," Imahara said on Twitter.

Police, guns drawn

Actor Tim Daly was inside the Virgin America first class lounge waiting to board a flight to Philadelphia when he heard the initial shots.

Less than a minute later, LAPD officers with guns drawn burst into the lounge, said Daly, best known for roles on the TV shows "Wings" and "Private Practice."

"That was pretty frightening when they burst in" because at first no one knew who they were, Daly told CNN by telephone.

Then officers herded everyone together to make sure there were "no bad guys, I guess," he said.

For about an hour, Daly and others waited to be evacuated.

They did not know that just outside the lounge, near Gate 35 and 36, airport police shot the gunman, bringing to an end the rampage.

"As we were evacuated, we were told to be careful not to step in any blood or glass as that would be evidence," Daly said.

"We were evacuated in different directions, and I didn't see any of that."

But he did see a high-powered rifle on the ground along with three magazines, a pair of black shoes and a number of bags strewn across the floors.

"I can only assume that was what was used by the shooter," Daly said.
 

News

Comments News Comments

Post new Comment