LAX Shooting Affects North Texas Travelers - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

LAX Shooting Affects North Texas Travelers



    Passengers arriving at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Friday afternoon from Los Angeles were flooded with calls and texts after the shooting at LAX, they had left moments before the shooting. (Published Friday, Nov. 1, 2013)

    Friday's deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport brought terrifying moments for several travelers bound for North Texas.

    A man carrying a note that said he wanted to "kill TSA" pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and shot his way past a security checkpoint, cutting down one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding at least three others, authorities said.

    The attack at the nation's third-busiest airport sent terrified travelers running for cover and, according to an airport official, disrupted 746 flights nationwide, either because they were held on the ground at LAX or not allowed to depart to other airports.

    Some travelers to North Texas left just minutes before the shooting, while others remain stranded in Los Angeles.

    Jerry Comstock, who arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from LAX to visit his grandchildren, said he had no idea about the shooting until he landed and turned on his cellphone.

    "We didn't realize until we landed, but then your text started going off on your cellphone," he said.

    "As soon as we landed, there were text messages on our phones from family and friends -- 'Hey, are you OK? Is everything fine?'" said Veronica Burgos, who is in North Texas for a tournament.

    She said many of her friends are still stuck at LAX.

    "We just flew in. We just had a slightly earlier flight, but we just missed it, but now we have part of our team stuck over there," she said.

    Flight tracking site said that as of 3:30 p.m. PDT, 195 flights to and from LAX were canceled and another 268 were delayed. To put that in perspective, there were roughly 200 other flight cancellations nationwide Friday, mostly in New York and Philadelphia because of rain and wind.

    The shooting has travelers questioning airport security.

    "When you go through security when you're in an airport or public place, I think you always think of those things, but there's not a lot you can do," Rhonda Comstock said. "Just kind of be aware of what's going on around you, I guess."

    Betsy Riley, who was scheduled to travel from Los Angeles to New York City, told NBC 5 by phone that she was just feet from the shooter.

    "We were standing there for about a minute when I heard gunfire," she said. "We all heard it. It was very loud and very close. Everyone who was in the security line hit the floor. I was gripping the poor woman in front of me so tightly."

    Riley said she saw an armed man come up the escalator.

    "He was very calmly riding the escalator with his gun pointing right in front of him," she said. "The TSA agents that might have been there to check my bag, they had scattered."

    "Thirty minutes after, yes, we saw cops and security and dogs, but the man had plenty of time to do what he had to do before there was any type of immediacy or urgency,” she said.

    The FBI and Los Angeles Airport Police identified the suspected gunman as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J. He had apparently been living in Los Angeles.

    A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly, said Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and "pigs."

    Ciancia was wounded in a shootout with airport police and taken into custody, authorities said. His condition was not immediately released.

    DFW Airport officials said they often train for situations such as the shooting in Los Angeles but would not say if they plan to increase security.

    NBC 5's Eric King contributed to this report.