Police rushed to two terminals at JFK International Airport Sunday night in response to reports of an “active shooter” inside — reports that turned out to be unfounded.
Police evacuated Terminal 8 just before 10 p.m. as precaution and searched for a suspect. The terminal was shut down for hours, and long lines and delays stretched into Monday.
Panicky travelers could be seen running from the terminals. A large crowd of travelers dashed across the tarmac toward waiting buses as others walked along the JFK Expressway. Some travelers said that they didn't know what they were running from.
Katherine Taylor, from East Hampton, said she was waiting for her flight in Terminal 1 when a group started running quickly toward her.
“And then all of the sudden everybody started running in this direction. And we heard somebody’s shooting, so we had to lie down. Everybody was lying down. We were all scared.”
The reports indicated the shots were fired near the departure area, said Port Authority police spokesman Joe Pentangelo.
“At this time, no firearm, rounds or shell casings or other evidence of shots fired has been found,” Pentangelo said.
Port Authority police called in officers from the NYPD to assist with the investigation.
The chaotic evacuation might have been sparked by travelers who mistook cheering, clapping Olympics fans for gunfire, law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York.
Some departing flights were delayed more than two hours and arriving flights were delayed as long as 45 minutes, airport officials said.
Terminal 1 was also closed in response to additional reports of shots fired there, Pentangelo said. The Van Wyck Expressway was also partially closed in the vicinity of the terminal, he said.
According to the flight tracking company, FlightAware, all inbound flights were held at their origin until 11:30 p.m. "due to security." Port Authority police said travelers should contact their carriers. They also warned of a "substantial PAPD and NYPD presence" at JFK and LaGuardia due to the investigation.
Both terminals were cleared around 12:15 a.m. They were both reopened sometime after midnight. It still wasn't clear Monday morning what caused the initial commotion.
No injuries were reported.