Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


Shots Fired at El Al Counter at LAX

Aired July 4, 2002 - 14:55   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This breaking story we're following for you right now. Shots reportedly have been fired at LAX not long ago. One person is in custody. And according to KTTV, our affiliate there, the Israeli airline El Al ticket counter was the place of the shooting at LAX.

We don't know any more than that, in terms of who the person is that police have in custody. But just that shots were fired and one man is in custody. And of course, we're going to try to update you on that situation. You're looking at KCBS pictures right now. Let's listen in on what they may have to report right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. There you see the fire department has arrived. An ambulance has arrived. Lots of activity out there. That's the front entrance to the Bradley terminal building. And those lines that we were talking about, Catherine, wrap around that sidewalk right there and head towards the right where those little buggy carts are.

So right now -- there's another ambulance there, and police officers. The entire area shut down. The guards in that terminal are armed, so most likely it was that guard who was witnessing what was going on, the guard who shot and fired. Look at that crowd right there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we were telling you a couple of moments ago that we weren't sure of any evacuation. But it's pretty obvious that that terminal has been evacuated. You can see all of the travelers there waiting outside. Probably very anxious about what has happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Catherine, I was just told, two people now confirmed dead. One of those dead, the gunman in this incident. So we know right now, two people dead. One person is that gunman. And as you can see there, everybody in that terminal has been ushered outside as police get to the scene of the crime to see what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you can see there are a number police personnel and emergency vehicles. In fact, a couple of moments ago we saw that one person was being transported into an ambulance. We understand that several people have been shot. We're not clear at this point just how many. At last check it was four. But of course, all of this information is coming in at last minute. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just a reminder again, this happened at the El Al counter, which is the Israeli national airline. Apparently right there in front of many people. At first we were saying four people shot. We do believe that it is four people shot. But we have confirmed two victims are dead, one of them being the gunman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you can see that this is a live picture from news chopper 2, there above LAX. We also have reporters headed to the scene. And we're going to get you a live report in just a couple of minutes.

Of course, this is all late-breaking so we've got to get people there as quickly as possible. But news chopper 2 is giving us a picture of just how many people have been evacuated from that terminal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Catherine, Michael James is in news chopper 2 right now. Let's talk to him. Michael, tell us a little bit about what you're seeing.

MICHAEL JAMES, REPORTER: Well, as you can see right now, this is on the south side of the terminal here, just on the other side of the Tom Bradley terminal, is where they're evacuating the people from. The upper and lower portions of the terminal, they're taking everybody out of there.

Now, on the way over we did hear that -- we didn't get the confirmation, but you did, that there were two people that were shot and were killed. We're also getting word that another person was stabbed. So they have four people right now that they're going to be transporting.

The L.A. city fire is on the scene and they're transporting four people, supposedly over to Martin Luther King Jr. hospital. That's the latest that we have right now. That's where they're taking these people. But we have four people injured. One of those with a stab wound.

And actually -- actually four victims. Two people dead and two people injured, one of those from a stabbing. And they're going to be transported shortly. But they do have four ambulances on the scene. L.A. city fire department saying they have enough equipment on the scene to deal with the situation. But that's what we have right now.

We're still listening over to the scanners to see if we can get any more for you. But it looks like they're totally evacuating the Tom Bradley terminal here at LAX.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, Michael, we see a lot of people there on the scene. Can you give us an idea, how far is the back-up? How far are they keeping people away? Can you show us with the camera?

JAMES: Yes, we'll pull back here. You can see they've stopped everybody. Looks like -- we'll pull over here. It looks like it's going to be all the way over at terminal one. That's where they stopped everybody. It looks like basically the entire circle here. The entire upper level is completely shut down here. They're not letting anybody go from terminal one. You can see the lower level is open, even though we did see some fire engines on the lower level here.

But it looks like the majority of action is taking place on the upper level. So right now at LAX, the entire upper level -- that would be the departure level -- is shut down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, Michael, I know it's early and we're getting last-minute details on exactly what happened. But are you hearing from any of the police activity about what might have prompted this shooting?

JAMES: No, nothing at all. That's what we were trying to get. We didn't hear anything over the police frequencies. Mostly hearing most of the activity on the fire frequencies, from L.A. city fire, talking about the victims.

At one point they said that they had to perform CPR on one of the victims. And that might have been one of the people that died at the scene. They were performing CPR on one person. That's the latest that we have.

And then, it just came over a few minutes ago that there was a stabbing. So we had a shooting and a stabbing. So I don't know if there was more than one suspect or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, we might be able to get more information right now, Michael, if you can just stand by. Alex Baez (ph) from the Los Angeles Police Department is on the phone right now. Thank you so much for joining us. What can you tell us about what happened today?

ALEX BAEZ, LAPD: Well so far we have -- everything is sketchy at the preliminary stages of this investigation. We do have it confirmed that there's two people who have expired, one of them being the suspect.

He was shot and killed by security personnel from El Al Airlines. This all took place at the Tom Bradley Terminal. There's two other people that were also shot and wounded and they're being treated by paramedics and soon to be transported to a local hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And can you confirm for us, we were getting reports that one person was also stabbed.

BAEZ: That I cannot confirm. We're, again, we're still trying to gather information from the airport and that I don't know. I have not heard that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us any information about how much extra security might have been in the area, extra personnel, extra officers, because of the Fourth of July weekend?

BAEZ: Well, the Los Angeles Police Department is on maximum deployment. Sure that the police department with the airport was also on maximum deployment. So every available officer is working today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK and we are seeing from our live picture right here that a number of people have been evacuated. Is this evacuation just for the Bradley Terminal or the entire airport at this point?

BAEZ: At this point, it's for the Bradley Terminal. I don't know that the airport personnel maybe decided to evacuate the whole airport. I don't know that yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so the entire terminal there has been shut down?

BAEZ: Yes, ma'am, it has.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well even so, Katherine (ph), you see the yellow tape has already gone up. That first level is blocked. So anybody leaving LAX this afternoon, they're going to be in trouble. They're not going to be able to get to their gate ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... if they have trouble, especially if somebody's dropping them off. So it may be a good time to start thinking of alternative plans on getting to LAX at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, we are going to put Alex Baez on hold there from the LAPD. Thank you so much for giving us that information. So here's what we know at this point. There has been gunfire there at the Bradley Terminal at LAX. Several victims, four people were shot. Two of those victims have died.

One of them is the suspect and we have been told just right now it's been confirmed that that suspect was shot by security personnel from the El Al, the Israeli Airline, and this all happened near a ticket counter there at El Al.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five ambulances were sent to the scene. Of course, officers not knowing how many people were hit, how many other victims might have been there. But five ambulances were sent to the scene, and just a little while ago you saw there from News Chopper 2, one of the victims was put into an ambulance. And as Michael James (ph) told us, possibly heading to King/Drew Medical Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, two people -- two of the victims who did survive the shooting are getting treatments. In fact you're probably looking at one of those victims right now. I can't tell if that stretcher does have a person on it or not, but you can see that L.A. Fire is there, L.A. City Fire and also plenty of LAPD officers.

They were already on maximum deployment anyway there at the airport and elsewhere around Southern California because of the heightened security being this, the Fourth of July.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. You are watching CBS2 News at noon right now. On the scene we're sending Paul Dandridge. We're sending reporter Christina Penza and of course News Chopper 2 overhead right now keeping us up-to-date on all of the information that's going on right now at LAX. You can see there the passengers that were waiting in the international terminal, which several ...

WHITFIELD: You've been watching CNN affiliate KCBS' coverage of a shooting, reported shooting at LAX Airport, more specifically in the Tom Bradley International Terminal where apparently gunfire erupted there and in the end, or at least this early stage of the investigation there, two people have been killed, two wounded and are being treated on the scene.

One of those killed reportedly is a gunman. This taking place according to the office of Governor Gray Davis' office, this took place at the El Al ticket counter, that's an Israeli airliner. We don't know the circumstances under which the shooting took place. But the shooting did take place in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which is the most westward, and if you're looking at this map here, look furthest over to your left and that terminal, that's the international terminal where the majority of the international airlines conduct their business.

At least four ambulances reportedly are on the scene treating the wounded; as yet that number is two. And they have evacuated the Tom Bradley International Terminal and obviously suspended all outbound and incoming flights at this juncture. Now we're hoping to get some sort of update from an official momentarily to give us a better sense as to what happened and just what preceded the shoot-out.

But apparently the gunman, the alleged gunman, who was among the two killed was shot by airport security and/or police officer responding to some sort of altercation or something that took place at that Tom Bradley International Terminal. You're looking at pictures from KTLA, as well as KCBS, our affiliates out in Los Angeles.

And obviously a number of police, fire and other emergency personnel on the scene there trying to get a better handle as to what happened and why and how this would happen, and on this Fourth of July holiday when security is so beefed up at airports and all other public spaces across the country.

Let's listen in now to our affiliate KCBS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... are now over here by American Airlines. But if you're heading towards LAX, they're going to have this shut down for a while. Right now the entire arrival level, the upper level is shut down. Their lower level is open. We're seeing cars go through the area, but the arrival level is shut down.

When they will reopen it, at least around terminals one, two and three, when that will be reopened, we haven't heard any word of that yet as well, but right now the entire upper level is closed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael (ph), the upper level, is that arrivals or departures?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that is departures. You're right ... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that is the departure level. I'm sorry ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... it is the departure -- the bottom is arrivals and the top is the departure level.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, but you were mentioning arrivals because you know we were commenting just a short time ago about how traffic has been so light on this Fourth of July holiday. How is this effecting the travel going into the airport right now? Can you tell?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we didn't notice coming out, but let's, if we can, pull back here and we'll see if they still have this entire area shut down. Yes, as you can see the upper level is still closed. And we'll see where it's ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... blocking traffic ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... we were looking at a live picture from on the ground and it's jammed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and as you see right now, nobody is going anywhere. In fact, let's see, they may be diverting everybody down to the lower level. It doesn't look like they have anybody official out there doing that. But you can see a lot of people are moving over to the other level.

They're not even going on the upper level. So that's going to really start to jam. Right now it's not too bad. As you can see, it's really not all that bad, but I can imagine as more people show up here, it's going to get worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, and as you were mentioning, I mean this investigation is going to take pretty much all afternoon I would suspect. So they probably don't have any plans to open up that terminal until at least very early into the evening. So you know the advice for people who are watching at home right now who have to depart it's just not the place it to be right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all, and here's the loop here, coming onto the loop, and you can see traffic is a lot worse. What's going to happen here is I think right now you can see what people are going to start doing, as this guy, he's trying to turn around to go the other way. So they may start taking traffic off or they may just divert them over to Supple (ph) Boulevard.

They may just take them off of this ramp right there and just turn them around and get them out of there. But right now around the loop, the big part of the loop there, if you're coming off of Century (ph) Boulevard, you're going to find it just completely jammed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Michael (ph). We have ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... yes, definitely stand by. Right now we have Alex Baez back on the phone -- no we don't -- OK. Let's take that sky cam shot again that we had from the airport. That was really amazing. People are starting to get out of their cars. They're starting to just wait and see what happened. This is going to be shut down for a while.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I would imagine that a lot of people who are just getting to the airport probably weren't aware of what happened, so they're perhaps getting out of their cars, trying to find out exactly what's causing the jam-up. And as you can see, it's quite a bit of a jam-up there, lots of folks just really stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I can only imagine what it was like for those people in the international terminal waiting for their flight. Nerves are always on edge, especially on a day like today, and all of a sudden they hear one, two, three, four, you know rounds go off ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and then, you know, police running, screaming and then another gunshot going off. It had to have been horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, once again, just to update you, we don't know exactly how many shots were fired, but we do know that there are several victims. Four people, in fact, were shot. Two of those victims are dead. One of them we're told is the suspect who was apparently shot by El Al security personnel.

El Al is the Israeli airline, and this happened near a ticket counter there at the El Al area inside the Bradley Terminal. We don't know the motive at this point because it's still early in the investigation, but that alleged gunman is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this investigation is going to take a long time. And many of these cases that I've covered in the past, if it's a shooting and someone has just been injured and they've been transported, police gather their information. They pick up the crime tape, and they leave.

But once there's anyone who's dead, the investigation even becomes more critical. They detail everything -- the distance from the body to the counter, where the gun might have fallen, just the places where people were standing, witnesses' accounts. It's going to take a long time to get ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that reopened. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the four people who were shot, two of them did survive and were told that those two people are on their way to the hospital to get treatment. We don't know how serious those injuries are. But we do know that four people were indeed shot there at the Bradley Terminal at LAX.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And two people confirmed dead, one of these being the gunman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also we can tell you that police are there and they were able to respond early to all of this because as we were being told by Alex Baez from LAPD, the police, the LAPD was at maximum deployment there ...

WHITFIELD: All right, you've been watching coverage from our affiliate KCBS about a shooting taking place in the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX. Two people were killed and two are being treated for injuries. One of those killed happens to be the alleged suspect or an alleged suspect in a shooting that took place just outside the El Al, an Israeli airliner ticket counter at that Tom Bradley International Airport.

We have on the phone with us now, Thad Weimlein, who was somewhat near that shooting location as it happened. Thad, if can you hear me on the telephone right now, give me a sense as to what you heard and about, you know, just kind of give me a play-by-play.

THAD WEIMLEIN, WITNESS TO LAX SHOOTING: We were at the Caribbean Air Terminal desk checking in for a flight at about noon. We were upstairs when the shooting broke out. There was probably eight to 10 shots. At first everyone thought it was fireworks. But people were running and screaming (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hitting the floor.

There was a number of plain-clothes policemen up there who pulled out guns and their badges at the same time. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stay under cover. There was an initial flurry of fires, then there was some silence, and then the firing started again, and that was how it went down. We tried to call 911, but it's -- it was just jammed up. We had to contact the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WHITFIELD: Now you were near a Caribbean Airline you said. About how far is that from the El Al ticket counter?

WEIMLEIN: No, I was at the Korean ...

WHITFIELD: The Korean.

WEIMLEIN: Korean Airlines, the same, it's the same desk area down there.

WHITFIELD: Got you, OK, and you heard the gunfire, initially when you heard that, what crossed your mind as to what you thought you were hearing?

WEIMLEIN: Oh I was -- I was pretty sure I was hearing gunfire. A lot of people were hoping that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fireworks and a prank, but there were -- the sound was distinctive. There were a lot of shots fired, a flurry, and then there was some silence, and some additional shots. Upstairs towards the back, and everybody just was on the deck.

WHITFIELD: And then -- and then once you discerned that OK, we've got a shooting here, what did security do in order to help start ushering people out or what were the instructions that perhaps airport security may have been giving all of you who were standing in line waiting to get on other airlines nearby?

WEIMLEIN: The people who were downstairs that initially run out of -- after it appeared that it was -- that there was some calm, the officers came in and asked everybody to usher out. They completely cleared terminal four and pushed it back (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WHITFIELD: OK. Now Thad, can you kind of give me a layout of that end of the terminal where you were? Were you -- is the -- are the ticket counters on the upper level or lower level?

WEIMLEIN: Ticket counters are on the lower level. There's two banks of tickets counters and I'm not sure -- I think the actual breakout is airlines begin with E running down through rest of the alphabet, and we were near the El Al Terminal and the terminal floor (UNINTELLIGIBLE) check in on the bottom and then upstairs is sort of the food concession area.

WHITFIELD: Now did you have any trepidations about traveling today anyway and then with this taking place, does it in any way kind of solidify whatever fears you may have had about traveling on this day?

WEIMLEIN: Well I thought today was supposed to be a pretty secure day. No, I'm still going to continue my travels out of the country.

WHITFIELD: Yes you figured if you're going to travel and you're going to be safe, this would be the day in which to do that?

WEIMLEIN: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I've never come across anything like this in the past. But ...

WHITFIELD: Well, what are you and other travelers being told at this juncture as to whether you could actually envision yourself departing on any flight today from that international terminal or from that airport rather?

OK, it looks like we're having a little cell problem there as Thad Weimlein has been on the phone with us, giving kind of a play-by- play as to what he experienced after hearing gunshots in the very terminal where he was going to be departing on a different airline, on a Korean airline, but the gunshots that he heard came from the El Al ticket counter, which is an Israeli airliner, and as Thad was explaining to us, the ticket counters are on the lower level of this most westerly terminal at LAX.

Right now of the some nine terminals at Los Angeles airport, Tom Bradley International Airport or terminal, rather, has been evacuated and of course, all flight activity has been temporarily ceased there while investigators remain on the scene trying to figure out what preceded, what sparked this gunfire taking place at that ticket counter.

A recap now, two people are dead including a suspected gunman and two others were wounded. Initial reports are that the two that were killed or the particularly the alleged gunmen were killed by airport security. Police responding to some altercation or something that took place just prior to that melee of gunfire.

Now as you can see there, this was a pretty heavily traveled, expected to be, a heavily traveled day right out of LAX there. Thousands of people have been forced out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Although there are other international airlines that go out of the other terminals, this one had the largest concentration of international airline flights in this particular terminal.

All of this taking place on this Fourth of July holiday, a day in which we heard from our Thad Weimlein who was on the phone. He was a witness. He said this was the day, if you're going to think you're going to be safe while traveling, if you had any trepidations about flying, this would be the day which you would be safest and yet something like this would happen. Let's listen in now to our CNN affiliate, KCBS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in and around the area who perhaps don't even know exactly what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Airline personnel standing there waiting for a week now, for more than many weeks we've been advising people about us being on a heightened state of alert.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful. Keep your eyes out. Keep your eyes peeled for anything suspicious. Then all of a sudden you're standing there in the middle of it all. It has to be something pretty terrifying for these folks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely and again, we're looking at hundreds of people who have been affected by all of this and that's not even counting the people who are trying to get into the airport and trying to leave the airport. You can see that traffic is just backed up and basically not moving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and Katherine (ph), what you're seeing right there where that little mini bus is, that's the loop to -- you know it's the loop that goes on to the airport. If you're coming from I think Century (ph), you're seeing they're turning everybody around right there. So people who are even getting close to the airport are being asked to turn and find another way into the airport. You see that bus ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Just to update you on what happened, if you're just tuning in right now. There's been a shooting at LAX. This happened at 11:32 this morning at the Tom Bradley Terminal. There were several victims. Four people were shot we're told. Two victims are dead, one of them is the suspect, the suspected shooter.

He was apparently shot by El Al Security. El Al is the Israeli airline, and this all happened near a ticket counter there at El Al. Two people were shot. did survive, and they are getting treatment. But at this point, we don't know how severe their wounds are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. Several ambulances on the scene. Obviously they sent extra personnel just in case there were more people injured, but that apparently not the case. We are hearing four -- right -- four people -- yes ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, four people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But two dead, one of them being the gunman and again just moments ago we learned that police may be looking for a possible second suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we were mentioning that we don't know how severe the two wounded people are, how severe their injuries are, but we know that they have been transported to the hospital for treatment. We saw just a little while ago how many fire personnel were there on the scene and how many Los Angeles PD were there on the scene and just a number of people affected by this, and we're going to get you all of the information on exactly the extent of those injuries as soon as we get it in here, into our studio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Katherine (ph), I was just told by our control room that we have video from the ground of the wounded or from Chopper 2 -- there you go. We were talking about those injured. This is one of the patients on a gurney being put on to an ambulance. And as Michael James (ph) was mentioning earlier, those victims apparently being taken to Drew Medical Center. That's a trauma center in the Los Angeles area where ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you have to know that they were pretty severe.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you definitely could assume something like that. And what we're hearing is four people shot ...

WHITFIELD: You've been watching our affiliate KCBS on its reporting of the shooting of two leading to their fatal wounding outside of -- or just inside of LAX Airport at the El Al ticket counter. Two others who were apparently hit in that gunfire were wounded and they're being treated for their injuries.

Now our Charles Feldman of CNN is on the telephone. He's heading to LAX and it's going to be slow going for you I know Charles, but you have been able to talk to authorities. What are they telling you right now as to what happened and why?

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the most important thing can I tell you at the moment, having talked to the chief spokesperson for the LAPD, that would be Lieutenant Horace Frank (ph), is that at the moment and I know this is on everybody's mind this Fourth of July about terrorism, he's saying that they have absolutely no reason at this time and he emphasized that, to believe that this in any way had anything do with any sort of terrorist attack.

However, and he added this important however, this investigation is in its very earliest stages. The information is still very sketchy for the LAPD and so he cautions that may change as the day progresses. But right now there's no indication of any terrorism. But here's what I can tell you.

According to the LAPD, they had a call into 911 at about 11:30 this morning, that would be Pacific Time, saying that there had been a shooting in the proximity of the El Al counter at Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles Airport. According to the preliminary reports that the LAPD now have, the alleged gunmen apparently opened fire on another individual also standing in the proximity of the El Al ticketed counter.

Now this is not, by the way, El Al does not have its own terminal at LAX. It has a ticket facility in the larger international terminal. That would be the Bradley Terminal. According to the LAPD spokesperson, the alleged gunman was shot and killed by El Al security personnel, not by airport security police and not by LAPD, but by the security attachment that works for El Al.

And as I'm sure everybody knows, El Al has a reputation worldwide for having some very strict security and they do not hesitate to use it if and when they think it is necessary. Now, besides the gunman who apparently is dead, as well as he person who the gunman shot, at least two other people and possibly more, but at least two other people, according to Lieutenant Frank, were seriously wounded.

The extent of their injuries unknown, unclear at the moment, but they have been, of course, rushed to the appropriate facilities in the L.A. area to tend to their wounds, but they are, I'm told, of a serious nature. It is not known the nationality or any other details, for that matter, at this time of the alleged shooter.

I can also tell you having talked to the chief spokesperson for the FBI office here in L.A,, the FBI also being on high alert today because of concerns of any possible terrorist attack. The FBI is also headed toward LAX to investigate although, there again, they say they have no reason to believe at the time that this is at all connected to any terrorism, but just to be safe, they want to have the FBI take a look along with the LAPD and that's about all we know at the ...

WHITFIELD: Now Charles, the pictures that we're looking at right now, it appears as though people are starting to make their way back to that Tom Bradley International Terminal. Are your sources telling you anything about whether they are getting close to resuming some sort of operations within that terminal? FELDMAN: No, I'm afraid not. I know that the airport was in a lockdown state for a little bit, and understandably so. And the traffic -- I'm on the way through the airport, and we haven't yet hit the bad traffic, but I will bet almost anything that we will soon. But it would not be unusual to try to get the operation going. If they've ascertained, as apparently they may have, that the situation is now under somewhat control.

You know it's a big airport. There are a lot of people traveling today and I'm sure they want to try to expedite that as best as they can so long as it doesn't somehow run a foul with any safety concerns.

WHITFIELD: OK, Charles Feldman, thank you very much for joining us on the phone and safe travels as you make your way to Los Angeles Airport. I know it is going to be thick with traffic because it is certainly a mess out there as you make your way there. And thank you for that very quick reporting on that investigation now ongoing.

Now also joining us is CNN's J. Kelly McCann. He's a security analyst. Give us a better sense, if you can hear me, are you there?


WHITFIELD: OK, very good. Just to give me a sense as to the security, in a situation like this. Now we have heard from our own Charles Feldman that his sources are telling him that El Al Airline Security actually carried out their own efforts to respond to initial shooting by one gunman and an El Al security then shot dead that suspect. Now is El Al one of the only airlines that has that kind of jurisdiction at LAX or any other American airport in this country?

MCCANN: I'm not sure that that connotes that they are specifically have jurisdiction. In other words, they very well could be American citizens who are legally carrying a concealed weapon authorized by the local police department. So it shouldn't -- we shouldn't infer that, you know, they were actually Israeli citizens that were in that shooting.

WHITFIELD: Right. And we don't know anything about those that were involved in the shooting. Just the only face being painted for us right now is that the security measures were carried out by El Al Security at their ticket counter. And I suppose what's pretty surprising to most people is that this airline, even though it's known for its top notch security measures, that this airline would have its only security forces at a ticket counter, at an American airport and able to carry out this sort of response by using firearms.

MCCANN: Again, was it confirmed, in fact, that El Al employees were the ones that retaliated with shooting?

WHITFIELD: That's what our Charles Feldman just confirmed through Los Angeles police.

MCCANN: Right. That doesn't necessarily surprise me because El Al and their offices worldwide do have a concerted security effort. So they do, and have for many, many years paid more attention to physical measures if an assault were to occur.

WHITFIELD: All right. Now what about, you know, the current sort of security measures that are in place involving other airlines. Do other airlines take these sort of measures, at least in the domestic airports, right now, that say an El Al Airline would?

MCCANN: No I don't believe that any of the airlines, the American airlines, have armed personnel there specifically to protect their ticket counter personnel. And as you know, outside the ...


MCCANN: ... first security gate, there is no security. Anyone can pull up and basically, other than the walking patrols by the local police enforcement, local police department, there is no security measure inside the building up to that first security gate.

WHITFIELD: Which explains why so many are so vulnerable leading up to that point. But so many travelers were a little nervous about traveling today, even though they're being urged by the president of the United States to carry on about your business, enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. But on a day such as this, when we're seeing heightened security everywhere, would it be logical to think that most airports have some sort of buffer zone security measures in place?

MCCANN: I think that the TSA is wrestling with that right now. The newly appointed TSA administration is going to wrestle with where does physical security begin and how do we bounce that against the public's convenience. Prior to this happening, and of course it still hasn't been confirmed what this was. Was it a romantic incident? Was it a criminal incident? Was it a terrorist incident?

This could have happened, you know, before 9/11. Having said that, how much will the public push back if suddenly based on this one event, regardless of what caused it, they enforce strict physical security measures right as you pull up at the curb. The American people, you know, still haven't embraced decidedly strict and aggressive security measures. They want security, but the price to pay, of course, is an inconvenience and expense. Incidents like this, unfortunately drive the measures that are in place and until we all feel like that's necessary, nobody's going to want to be inconvenienced.

WHITFIELD: All right J. Kelly McCann, thank you for joining us on the phone. We're looking now at live pictures of what appears to be the first takeoff since operations were ceased there at LAX because of this shooting that took place in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. And I'm sure, to an awful lot of travelers who were going into LAX, that's probably a good sound to hear and a good sight to see, all of them worried about whether or not all of their plans for today, their travel plans, are history as a result of this shooting. But it appears as though they're trying to get things going as best they can, but it is slow going.

Kelly McCann, our own CNN security analyst, for joining us. Now, Josef Bootski was somewhere near the proximity of this shooting taking place outside the El Al ticket counter into the Tom Bradley International Terminal. He is on the phone with us now.

Josef, can you hear me OK?


WHITFIELD: All right, about where were you in relation to the shooting?

BOOTSKI: Well, Fredricka, my wife and I, we were about -- we just checked in. We just checked our bags in. We were maybe 20 feet away from this guy. And, all the sudden, we turned around. We heard gunshots. We turned around. And we looked. And it was a white guy with a pony tail, a little overweight. And he just kept yelling: "Artie took my job. Artie took my job."

And I have no idea what he was talking about. And he just started shooting everybody. And then he just started telling bad jokes.

WHITFIELD: So this shooting took place. And this alleged gunman continued to yell out things. And I'm sure people were screaming and running at that point?

BOOTSKI: People were running all over the place.

And just, the guy seemed to be upset the fact that Artie Lange took his job on the Howard (AUDIO GAP) I can't believe it. Why would he shoot somebody over that?

WHITFIELD: OK, Josef, when you had -- you were about 20 -- OK, well, hold on for a minute, Josef. And we will continue with your story in a moment.

We want to share with viewers what is going on out at LAX at the Tom Bradley International Terminal there. A shooting took place roughly at about 11:30 Pacific time, 2:30 Eastern. A gunman apparently was at the El Al ticket counter, fired a shot at another person. That person was fatally wounded. And then El Al security police, according to CNN sources -- this being confirmed by our own CNN Charles Feldman. Sources are telling him that El Al security then shot that alleged gunman dead.

Two other people were wounded, but we don't know at what juncture those two other people were wounded, if that was the result of the initial gunman, or if that was a result of you the police officer, the El Al security's gunfire. We just don't know at this juncture. But two of those people are being treated for their injuries.

At that time, that terminal was evacuated. Hundreds of people who were looking forward to their Fourth of July travels today were all ushered outside. And operations were ceased temporarily. We just saw moments ago a plane taxiing and taking offer for the first time in about an hour now after operations were ceased. But we don't know if operations will continue or just when they would continue today at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Now, that terminal is one of nine terminals at LAX. It is the one that houses the majority of the international flights. You've been listening to a number of witnesses that we've had on the telephone with us, describing their accounts of what took place, many of whom described feeling like today would be the day to travel safest because of heightened security across the country, particularly at public places on this Fourth of July.

Let's listen in to KCBS, our CNN affiliate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in that terminal alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people affected. You see there traffic right now, traffic at a standstill, much of it being diverted. Traffic on a lower level is still moving. But, again, that is moving at a snail's pace.

We are learning also that, shortly after the incident, planes continued to land and take off after the shooting. But after the shooting, much of the airport was closed off and thousands of people were evacuated. A witness, name by Thad Weimlein, possibly a passenger, describes the incident as initial flurry of fire followed by silence, then gunfire. He claims it was maybe eight to 10 shots and people just started hitting the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And were you mentioning that thousands of people had been evacuated. We are getting that word right now, thousands herded into traffic lanes of LAX's upper level.

One of the reports that we are hearing right now is that perhaps police are looking for a second suspect. A second suspect they think may have been involved in what happened. And, again, as we've been talking about this, if that's the case, this investigation is going to last for quite some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Catherine, new information again: FBI agents were on the scene. But right now, there is no indication of the shooter's identity or his nationality. And there is no initial indication of the motive for the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All we know is that this happened, at this point, near a ticket counter in the El Al Israeli airline terminal -- or area, I should say. Someone just walked up and opened fire. And several people were hit. And two of them,two people have died, one of them being the suspect. And two people have survived, were taken to a hospital. We don't know how severe their injuries are. That suspect was shot by security personnel there with El Al Airlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we mentioned, El Al the only airline in the world that has armed security guards protecting their personnel.

As you were seeing in our pictures earlier, fire officials have been on the scene. And we are now learning that, quickly after the shooting, fire officials deployed a team to check for hazardous materials in the Tom Bradley building. Obviously, with the suspect shot, there's no way to find out any information, whether or not there are other threats in the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I was telling you about some of those figures that came out yesterday about close to a million people going through LAX between yesterday and Sunday.

Well, now we are getting word that 900,000 alone expected to go through LAX today and on Sunday. So, 900,000 in one day. And we are told that flights are 85 percent full between now and Sunday. So, a lot of people are being affected by this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Catherine, you know, it's taken a long time for us to get into the airport. But I understand that CBS News reporter Christina Penza is live. She is on the ground. And she is going to bring us up to date with what's going on.

She's on the phone.


I'm here at the airport just outside the Tom Bradley Terminal. Now, as I'm sure you've reported, just after 11:30 this morning, the shots rang out. I just spoke with a young woman who was in the terminal at the time. She was on the lower level. She was here waiting for her brother to arrive from Australia. She said that people heard the shots ring out, heard several shots fired coming from the upper level, and then saw security guards just whiz past them running up stairs.

And, of course, and as I'm sure you've also reported, we are hearing that there are two people dead, one the shooter. We are hearing that he was killed. We are hearing from the LAPD that he was killed by El Al security. Now, at this point, things are very chaotic at LAX, very difficult to get in and out of here. Traffic on the upper level is shut down.

On the lower level, there is traffic moving at this point, but police and airport security have been moving out some very confused passengers right now, trying to get them away from this terminal, trying to just move them on away from the -- basically, away from the fire trucks that have gathered here, along with police and all of the news media. So, it's very slow going here. The situation is still evolving.

Now, I did speak very briefly with El Al Airlines, with their reservation desk from the 800 number. They said, at this point, they have very little information. They're still getting all the pieces together. They do understand that this happened at a ticket counter, where this person opened fire. The young woman I spoke with, who says that she was in the terminal when it happened, she believes that a woman was shot.

Now, we do not know that. That has not been confirmed by the LAPD as of this point. That's just a woman who was there and says that she witnessed part of this incident, at least. So, that's really what's happening here at LAX right now. As I said, the bottom level is moving, lots of police and fire trucks here right now, of course, along with the news media. We will be working throughout the day to bring you the latest on this developing story.

Christina Penza at LAX -- back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christina, you mentioned talking to some folks who were there in the lower level. Were they able to see any of the victims being transported out of the airport?

PENZA: No. At this point, they were not. It was a very confusing time, at least for that one woman I spoke with, who says she was there; she did at least hear and see part of this transpire, see the security guards running out. It was a very confusing time.

They did end up being ushered outside. And, in fact, I spoke with her just outside the entrance, the lower entrance to the Tom Bradley Terminal. She was gathered on a lawn with a lot of other people who had been waiting at the terminal at that time, waiting for passengers to come in, or waiting to -- for other flights to arrive. And no. So, to answer your question, no, she was not able to see any of the victims being transported.

Now, we had heard earlier from Michael James (ph) in our chopper, Chopper 2, that, in fact, L.A. city fire was transporting some of the victims to MLK. At this point, that's everything that's happening here at LAX.

This is Christina Penza at LAX. We will bring the latest as this story evolves -- back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, you've been watching our affiliate KCBS on its coverage of a shooting at LAX at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Two people are dead. Two others are wounded -- among the two killed: an alleged gunman, who actually fired at someone else in the airport. That alleged gunman was then killed by El Al security personnel, that according to sources telling our CNN Charles Feldman.

Security is tight there at the airport now, though particularly because of this Fourth of July holiday. But somehow, because there is no security measure on the outside of the terminals there, things like this happen. And, in this case, El Al security, which is an airline, an Israeli airline known for its very intense security. It is the only airliner in the United States, for that matter, where its security personnel have their own guns. And they are there to protect on board the airlines as well as, as you saw today, outside the ticket counters to protect their own personnel.

We've got on the telephone with us: Billie Vincent, former head of security for the FAA.

Bill, if you can hear me OK, this is a pretty remarkable scene at LAX Airport. The international terminal has been evacuated. But we did see, just moments ago, that planes are starting to take off, at least at LAX.

Talk to me about the security measures that are in place specifically for the El Al Airline, since they are one of the only airlines known to have their own security to protect their own personnel.



VINCENT: Fredricka, yes that's true.

El Al -- well, El Al is not the only one. There are other airlines that have air marshals that fly on the airplanes into the U.S. But El Al in particular over the years has had armed people on the ground in the ticket counter area at the airports in which they operate. And that's usually done, to my knowledge, by those persons being deputized by the local police forces.

And it appears, in this case, that that played out very well, as that did in 1985, December 27, 1985, when they had an armed attack at both their Rome ticket counters, Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, and also in Vienna. In fact, there were coordinated simultaneous terrorist attacks by the Abu Nidal terrorist group.

WHITFIELD: Well, Billie, let me ask you this.

That this shooting incident took place outside of the security checkpoint areas in a very public area, do you suppose that this type of shooting, this example of violence today will offer some precedence to the argument of having some sort of security checks before you even enter the perimeter or any public area, intimate public area, as the ticket counter is, of any of the nation's airports?

VINCENT: I think we are going to see a change in thinking on that.

Heretofore in the United States, the threat that has been articulated has been an attack against an airplane at the gate or a hijacking or a bombing of the airplane. The things that we've seen here has happened several times around the world in the last 20, 25, 30 years. Again, perhaps this is a thing that we've gradually adopted as a fortress America thought, that we don't have to protect outside of that land-side/air-side boundary.

Now, what's likely to happen on this is that, with the immediate beefing up of the roaming police agents in the ticket counter areas at all of our major airports -- that's probably ongoing right as we speak -- how far we go I think will depend on some reflection and some analysis of exactly who the perpetrator was on this particular incident.

WHITFIELD: Now, Bill, we must underscore -- at least according to sources that spoke with CNN's Charles Feldman -- that they have no reason to believe that this is the result of any terrorist activity.

But, aside from that, security obviously paramount, of paramount importance at the nation's airports. And even if it doesn't mean the threat of terrorism, obviously, there are other sources of violence. And this just might be an example of that.

VINCENT: Well, and it could be. And it could be an individual mentally deranged, or it could be someone who had specifically targeting El Al in mind. That is, it could very well have been a terrorist act. And we don't know that at this point.


VINCENT: Some airports in the world -- and it used to be at Tel Aviv. I'm not sure that that's the case now. But they had provisions for a preliminary security check of you and your vehicle before you ever got to the terminal.

And in other airports in the world, that's still in place. And it depends on what that country sees as the threat to their particular operations. At other airports, you cannot enter the terminal without first going through a security screening point. So, you're sterile from the standpoint of weapons or explosives, theoretically, when you enter the terminal.


VINCENT: That doesn't mean that you can't attack the crowd outside of the terminal.

And the interesting thing now is, when they reopen the Tom Bradley International Terminal, will they screen all of those people that are coming into the terminal?


VINCENT: I'm sure the police is going to take a rather careful look at each of the individuals.


And the question after that is, if that were to be the case, how do you finance that? And how do you possibly have the resources in which to carry out that kind of security plan?

Today alone, out of LAX, 900,000 people are expected to travel in and out of that airport, with 85 percent of the airlines full. And on a regular basis throughout the year, more than 61 million people travel through that airport. So, it is certainly a colossal task in which to carry out security measures at that airport.

And, Billie Vincent, former head of security for the FAA, I appreciate your insight today. And thank you for joining us on such short notice and being available to us. Appreciate it.

Let's listen in to our affiliate KCBS right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... see some ambulances and emergency personnel. And you can also see that traffic is at a virtual standstill there on the upper level, the departure level there of the Bradley Terminal. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's that hazmat truck that you were talking about, Catherine, the hazmat team making its way to the Bradley Terminal to investigate and to find out if there are any other dangers inside that terminal.

And while they investigate -- it's a very big terminal. If you've flown on out of there, you know it's a big terminal. It's going to take a while to get through all the nooks and crannies of that terminal to make sure that is indeed clear, it's an all-clear, and people can go back inside.

This is not the very first time that a shooting has happened at El Al Airlines. We understand that, back in 1985, there were two shootings at an El Al terminal, at an El Al counter, one of them happening in Rome in Italy, and the other one happening in Vienna.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, once again, we want to let you know that this happened at 11:32 this morning. There has been a shooting. Of course, there's going to be a lot of questions as to how this person got through security with a gun.

And, Paul, I would imagine a lot of the people who have already been evacuated are asking that very thing right now.

Paul Dandridge (ph), are you there on the ground?

OK, it sounds to me like he's still trying to get some new information and talking to people there.

But Christina Penza is on the phone. She is also there at LAX.

And, Christina, you've been talking to some of those folks. What are they saying?

PENZA: Well, the main thing they've been asking is, what's going to happen? Will flights be coming in and out?

Now, at this point, I just talked with a sergeant from airport police. And he says just everything is on delay. That's the best way he can put it is that, at this point, everything is on hold. It's going to be very difficult to get any cars in and out of here.

Now, as I reported earlier, the upper level is closed. I have just learned that they are planning to close the lower level as well, at least in front of the Bradley International Terminal. So, they're going to be doing that shortly. This is all considered a secure area right now, lots of police activity and fire department. So, at this point, there are still folks who have been waiting for other planes to arrive.

WHITFIELD: You're listening to KCBS coverage at LAX there, where it's being reported that investigators are still looking for yet another suspect. Two people were killed, including an initial gunman, who fired at someone else outside the El Al ticket counter in the Tom Bradley International Terminal there. Two other people were wounded. Carrying out the shooting of the suspected gunman was an El Al security agent. And they are armed, particularly to protect their own El Al employees.

On the telephone with us now is Isaac Yeffet, a former head of security for El Al Airline.

Isaac, you can give us a better sense as to paramount security that your airline has always respected, particularly within recent years. This is not unusual that you would have a gunman at the ticket counter. Would you, at your El Al ticket counters even in the U.S., not just abroad?

ISAAC YEFFET, FORMER EL AL SECURITY CHIEF: The point is that we have to remember that the terminal is a public area and not isolated area, that El Al people can't check everyone who wants to go inside the terminal.

In a public area, we seeking under consideration that, based on the experience that we have, four times already in Europe when terrorists came to attack El Al passengers, and the security guys gave the right answer. They did it here in L.A. A gunman came into a public area. And you cannot ask anyone to show you I.D. or tickets, because everyone can walk in this terminal.

The problem is that we have to be careful as a security people not to open fire against anyone before we are sure that either he is a terrorist or we can see him opening fire.

WHITFIELD: OK, well, then, let's talk about in this case, where El Al has something like 25 carriers, with as many as 7,000 planes going in and out of the U.S. at peak times. So, in a case like this, just outside in that public area of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, you're saying that the El Al security is trained to only carry out such drastic measures of gunfire if they are able to discern quite immediately -- within seconds, I suppose, they have to conclude whether they're dealing with a potentially threatening or deadly situation.

YEFFET: That's correct. Our guys are trained to give the answer and to finish this attack in less than 30 seconds.


WHITFIELD: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but witnesses say they saw a man. Now, this is strictly a witness account, an eyewitness account that I'm reiterating here.

An eyewitness in that terminal said they saw this man yelling out something, and then fired his weapon and that, immediately, El Al security was able to then respond and be there at the ready and then was able to kill, shoot and kill that suspected gunman.

YEFFET: That's correct. This is exactly the information that I received. The guy -- the gunfire -- the gunman opened fire. He killed the first passenger and probably wounded two. At the same second, the El Al security guys, this is their job to give the answer immediately. They killed him, probably, and they saved lives of other innocent people that were around the ticket counter.

WHITFIELD: Now, Isaac Yeffet, don't go far away just yet, because I want to bring in our -- CNN's Charles Feldman, who has an update as to whether or not reports are correct that another suspect is somewhere out there that investigators are looking for.

Is that true or no?

YEFFET: I don't think that -- if it was another suspect, I do believe that he would join the gunman to open fire and to kill as many innocent people or passengers of El Al they can, because, the more they kill, the impact on the morality of the Israelis and the U.S. government here that, inside the country, they can -- to kill innocent people would be horrible.

I think that the fact that no one else opened fire, I doubt if anyone with arms was in the area. From my experience, I can tell you, in Europe, that, when the terrorists came to open fire and to kill passengers, all of them opened fire before, that all of them were killed.

WHITFIELD: Isaac Yeffet, former head of security for El Al Airline, thank you very much for joining us on the telephone.

Now CNN's Charles Feldman is on also the telephone. And we want to be bring him into this equation here.

We had heard through our KCBS affiliate that police were looking for a suspect there on the ground.

Charles, what source -- what are your sources telling you at this juncture as to whether that is indeed the case?

FELDMAN: Well, it isn't actually very clear.

What we do know is that there's a bit of a mystery. The police are saying that there's no question that one individual was stabbed. The other victims, of course, in this were shot by the alleged gunman. But there is an individual who was stabbed, the extent of that injury or those injuries also not known.

And that, of course, leaves the police with a little bit of mystery, whether that person was stabbed by the shooter or stabbed by another individual, who, of course, would have been armed with a knife. If it turns out that the stabbing victim was stabbed by another individual, then, obviously, we've got a situation where there is another suspect on the loose that the police have to be on the lookout for.

But it is unclear at this hour whether or not the stabbing is even related to the shooting and whether or not the stabbing was done by a different individual.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's interesting. Now, what about these other two who were wounded? Do we think they were wounded by the response to the gunman or from that initial gunman?

FELDMAN: There, again, I'm afraid, too early in this whole investigation and much too early in the story, unfortunately, to know for sure. What the police have to do, of course, is gather eyewitness accounts and talk to the El Al security personnel.

We obviously know that, according to the police preliminary accounts, it was the gunman who opened fire first, shooting and killing at least one person. Whether the other two individuals were shot before he was killed by the El Al security or somehow tragically got caught in the crossfire, that we don't know yet.

WHITFIELD: Now, your sources are telling you, once again, that they do not believe this is the result of any terrorist activity, correct?

FELDMAN: Well, what they're saying is that that may be a little stronger than they or I would like.

I think what they're saying is that this is very early on, that, at the moment, they don't have any indication that this is terrorist- related. There are some obvious suspicious things here. I mean, El Al, of course, is a high-profile airline when it comes to terrorist targets here at LAX. The country, of course, is on a terrorist alert this weekend.

So, when you put all of that into this sort of giant soup mix, then anyone, I'm sure, in law enforcement would think that there's a possibility. But do they have any concrete evidence? No.

WHITFIELD: All right, Charles Feldman of CNN, thank you very much for joining us on the telephone there, as you were en route to LAX.




Back to the top