About 20 passengers fled through emergency doors and onto the tarmac at a Los Angeles International Airport terminal Monday after someone incorrectly said an armed man was on the loose, authorities and witnesses said.
The "misinformed announcement" near a boarding area apparently stemmed from a police pursuit of an unarmed driver outside Terminal 2, LAX Police Sgt. Belinda Joseph said.
Police responded to a call around 9 a.m. local time (noon ET) reporting that a man may be trying to commit suicide. They apprehended the man outside the terminal but "someone said that there was a man with a gun, which was not true," Joseph said.
Benjamin Horton, a photojournalist who was in the terminal at the time, told The Associated Press: "People started screaming and I could hear the trampling of a large number of people coming down the terminal. By the looks on people's faces and the way that they were scattering it seemed to me that people were trying to get away from a shooter."
Horton said he hid behind a pillar and saw an elderly woman fall and get partially trampled but didn't appear to be injured.
Police initially said the rumor was spread over a public address system but later said the announcement was made by someone at the gate area. It was unknown whether an airport or airline employee or a passenger spread the incorrect information.
Travelers who fled outside were "under observation the whole time" they were near planes, and officers got things under control within 15 minutes, Joseph said.
- The Associated Press