Police stand outside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
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.
As part of a crackdown against people who point lasers at airplanes, the FBI will give out rewards of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest, agency officials said Tuesday at an LAX press conference.
It’s a pilot program and will last only for 60 days at 12 FBI field offices, including Los Angeles.
FBI and FAA officials say there were 3,960 laser strikes reported in 2013, though they say many strikes go unreported. The lasers can temporarily blind pilots, impacting their ability to control planes and helicopters.
“As a pilot, I’m concerned about this issue,” said Chief Ted Sexton of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homeland security division. “When we’re flying helicopters, it’s about like taking two plates and balancing them as you ride a unicycle. You have to have extreme focus on what you are doing.”
Bill Lewis, assistant director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said he hopes the FBI’s short-term campaign will teach the public about the dangers of lasers.
“While there are legitimate reasons for lasers, pointing them at aircraft is not one of them,” Lewis said. “Through this publicity campaign, we are hoping to change the mindset of those who think this this is merely a prank. In reality, the act of pointing a laser at an airplane or at a helicopter can temporarily blind the pilot, during critical phases of operations — during takeoff, during landing — when they have to have complete and very dedicated focus on what they are doing.”
The LAX observation deck will remain open on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. Photo: Katie Murphy.
The observation deck atop the iconic theme building at Los Angles International Airport will reopen Saturday after it was briefly closed due to elevator trouble, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.
A Tweet sent by airport police over the weekend said the observation deck would be closed “until further notice,” which worried some of my readers, who feared it would never reopen. The deck is enough of a security risk that an airport police officer sits in the lobby whenever the deck is open. That’s presumably a significant expense, and some thought it might just be easier to close the deck forever.
According to the L.A. Times, the theme building was closed for almost a decade after 9/11, only opening again in 2010. During that period, the building was upgraded for seismic reasons. The Times says the building is 135 feet high — just high enough to get a good view of the terminals and airfield.
The observation deck is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never been and have some time to kill. I don’t know of any other airport with such a great airport-run viewing area, though presumably there are some. (George Hobica ranked some of the best observation decks recently for USA Today.)
There are some great views from the LAX theme building observation deck. Photo: Katie Murphy.
Earlier today, Los Angeles International Airport police responded to a report that there was a bomb that an airport cargo facility used by US Airways. It turned out to be a false alarm.
But police took photographs of the item, which I obtained through an inside source. Here’s what officers found when they arrived at the facility. Can you see why they were alarmed?
UPDATE: 3:25 p.m. Sgt. Belinda Nettles of airport police says that the item has been cleared. “It was computer parts,” she said.
Police responded to a report of a possible improvised explosive device at a Los Angeles International Airport cargo facility at about 2:10 p.m. on Wednesday.
Here’s the final statement from Los Angeles World Airports police:
“Airport Police responded to a suspicious item at approximately 2:10 p.m., located at Century Blvd and International Blvd at the U.S Airways cargo facility. The LAPD Bomb Squad cleared the item at 3:30 pm. The suspicious item turned out to be a box containing computer parts. The cargo facility was repopulated.”
Though it’s not in the statement, a high-ranking police source told me that when the call came in, it was for a “possible IED.”
LAPD bomb squad and Los Angeles Fire are also on scene, officials said. The incident happened at a cargo facility used by several airlines, including US Airways, at 10080 International Road.
Note: This post was updated to include a new airport police statement at 5:30 p.m.