Two of 10 panic buttons at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport were not working on Nov. 1, though that discrepancy probably had no effect on police response, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.
The buttons are designed for an emergency. TSA workers are supposed to hit them when they are in danger to ensure a rapid police response. But the law enforcement official said data shows TSA officials failed to hit any of the eight working buttons, probably because they were fleeing the area so quickly. That may suggest nothing would have changed had the two other buttons been operational.
On Nov. 1 at around 9 a.m., police say that gunman Paul Ciancia entered the terminal and started firing at TSA agents near the checkpoint. He is accused of killing TSA screener Gerardo Hernandez and wounding three others. Federal prosecutors are now deciding whether to seek the death penalty against him.
The law enforcement source said TSA agents were aware that at least one of the buttons was not working at the time of the incident. The second one did not work when it was tested after the incident.
A TSA supervisor did use a special phone line to ring directly to an airport police dispatcher, the source said. The phone call was brief, as the caller quickly fled to escape the gunman, according to the source.
Reached Thursday, Los Angeles-based TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
LAX is expected to produce an after-action report soon. The public will be able to read it, but it will not include what is called “security sensitive” information.