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Deadly Shooting at Los Angeles Airport Kills At Least Two

Aired July 4, 2002 - 15:58   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now, at LAX, public information officer Tom Winfrey is on the telephone with us now.

Perhaps, Tom, you can give a better sense as to what travelers should be doing. That Tom Bradley International Terminal was evacuated. We saw some movement on the live camera pictures. Are people being allowed to go back in?

TOM WINFREY, LAX SPOKESMAN: I haven't been contacted at the moment.

But I do know that outbound flights from that terminal have been delayed. We have nine different terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. And incoming flights to the Tom Bradley Terminal are being reassigned to other international gates, where the passengers will be bussed to other terminals in the airport.

So, the best thing is for people to contact their respective airlines and see what arrangements they need to make.


Now, Tom, do you suppose this is now setting the stage for some serious discussions about putting some sort of security measures in those public places of, say, the ticket counters at the airport? I know that so many airports across the country have taken all sorts of measures post-9/11. But did anyone anticipate something like this to happen? And should this mean that now new security measures have to go in place in a response to this?

WINFREY: Well, I think the incident will be reviewed and appropriate steps will be taken. I think it's premature to try to sort out what should be done immediately. So, the law enforcement people will work with the federal authorities to determine what's the best steps to take in the future at this airport or others.

WHITFIELD: All right, well if outbound flights are being delayed, as you say for today in response to this, then what are you instructing people to do who have not quite made their way to the airport? Perhaps they were en route and have heard something about this. What's the best instruction you might be able to give them right now?

WINFREY: Well, again, that's the -- only the flights at that terminal others are afflicted. Others are, at the domestic terminals, are still operating. But the best thing is for them to contact their airline, who I'm sure are scrambling as best they can to get the information for their customers.

WHITFIELD: OK. But, once again, this is -- Tom Bradley International Terminal is one of nine terminals there. And given the location of where that international terminal is, it seems like a lot of those folks who have been evacuated are kind of clogging the thoroughfare there. So anyone might be effected in some of the other terminals as well, right?

WINFREY: OK. Again, we have our airport radio station, AM-530. That will talk about traffic situations. They can tune into that as they approach the airport and really just stay tuned to the press accounts and when the terminal will be much -- traffic will be in much better shape.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you very much, Tom Winfrey, public information officer with LAX. Thank you very much for joining us on the telephone.

We want you all to see and listen in now to some of the witnesses of what they experienced earlier today at LAX, Tom Bradley International Terminal. Listen in now, and then we will be going to Judy Woodruff with "INSIDE POLITICS."

ROBIN BERGLUND, WITNESS TO LAX SHOOTING: Sure. We were upstairs outside eating Al Fresca (ph), one of the upstairs restaurants, and we heard two or three rapid fire shots followed by maybe another six or seven. And then, at that point, there was a way from the balcony back where everybody just hit the ground and waited.

And it got quiet and it stayed quiet. And then gradually, the more adventuresome people got up to take a look around. I did and I went forward to the balcony, and I saw three people down, one near the counter a middle-aged man in casual clothing with clearly an entry wound in his flank from a bullet. A few feet away, near the counter, it appeared to be a heavy-set older lady down, covered by blankets. And then, more into the main aisle, there was a middle-aged man in a suit down, surrounded by security people. And there appeared to be something of a struggle at first. But then when they left, I saw him down and motionless and in an awkward body position. And my impression was that he was dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see the gunman at all?

BERGLUND: I don't know who did it. I don't know whether it was the man that appeared to be dead, and that he had been shot by security or whether there was somebody that came in and got away. I couldn't tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots did you hear?

BERGLUND: About a dozen, somewhere between eight and 12. In two bursts, one short burst and then followed by lots of other shots. JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: You're listening to eyewitnesses at Los Angeles International Airport, where just within the last hour or so, there was a shooting. CNN has been reporting on it. Our coverage continues now. These are live pictures from Los Angeles of the airport. It was the Bradley International Terminal where this shooting took place. And you've just been hearing these witnesses say they heard a burst of gunfire. One man saying eight to 12 shots were fired, then there was silence and then there were more shots fired. And you heard him describing people lying on the ground. One may have been dead. At least another two injured.

The reports we have at CNN are that at least two people are dead and that there are some serious injuries involved. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington, taking over our coverage at this hour. And we are following all the news on this Fourth of July. But right now, our main focus is on this shooting at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport, the Thomas Bradley International Terminal, one of nine terminals at LAX.

With me now on the telephone, CNN's Charles Feldman, who has been on this story for the last hour and more. Charles, I just heard you saying that they're still -- they're saying with regard to terrorism, they just don't have enough information at this point to know what it is.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's quite right, Judy. And by the way, I've just arrived at the airport, and I can give you a quick idea about what's going on here. There's, as you can imagine, a lot of people standing outside, a lot of police, media trucks and the like. And we are trying to make our way right now to our live location, but we are being stopped at every turn by security personnel.

But in terms of your question about terrorism, yes, I mean, you know, the knee-jerk reaction, of course, would be to very quickly say this is a terrorist attack because it's at El Al. It's on the July 4th weekend. We have been put on a high state of alert because of terrorism. But I'm being told repeatedly by both the LAPD and the FBI, people that I've talked with, that at the moment, it is much too early in this investigation to draw any such conclusion.

Shootings, unfortunately, happen all the time in big cities such as L.A. It may turn out that this was a very unfortunate shooting in a very bad location indeed, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it has any connection to terrorism. Now having said that, Judy, what the LAPD and the FBI are also saying is that as this investigation progresses, that may change. When they learn more about who the shooter, the alleged shooter, was, when they find out whether or not there was an accomplice because we do know that there was a stabbing victim. It is unclear if it was related to this, although it happened at the same location. We don't know whether the person was stabbed by the shooter or by another individual, in which case, we've got a fugitive situation on our hands.

So there are too many unknowns here for the police or the FBI to draw any conclusions. And they're being very, very cautious in not wanting to send off any false alarms. But having said that, I mean, there are a lot of, as I'm sure you realize, very unusual things about this. El Al is a prime target for terrorists around the world. LAX has been a target for terrorists before in an apparently, you know, an aborted plot to blow it up during the millennium celebrations.

So there were a lot of things in this that would make law enforcement people nervous, that would make them want to press this investigation, and they will, much more extensively. But is there any evidence at this hour that this is terrorist related? As far as we can tell, the answer is no.

WOODRUFF: At the same time, Charles, the fact that this has occurred on July 4th, when in a way, the whole country is on alert, even though the federal government did not raise the alert level, it's still at the same level it was some days ago. Because it's July the 4th, because there have been these sort of vague warnings that maybe something is out there, people are clearly on edge. And we just heard the airport police spokesman, I believe it was, saying all the outbound flights have been delayed from this terminal. All the inbound flights have been assigned to different terminals. Clearly, this part of LAX has been thrown into paralysis, if you will.

Charles, just quickly recap for us what we know about what happened. This was at the El Al ticket counter, in effect, outside the high security area of the airport?

FELDMAN: Yes, that's right, Judy. This is before you would go through the, you know, the metal detectors that we've all gotten very used to, where you have to, of course, have tickets. And this is the ticket area. And El Al, like many international carriers, does not have its own terminal building at LAX. LAX, I think, you mentioned has some nine terminals. And El Al has a ticket area within what's known as the Bradley International Terminal, named after, by the way, a former mayor of the city of Los Angeles.

At about 11:30 this morning, that would be Pacific time, there was a 911 call received by police of a shooting in this area. And according to the preliminary reports, and preliminary is the key word here that the LAPD has, a gunman opened fire on another individual all in the proximity of this El Al ticket counter area. It is unclear if the other two people who were very seriously injured, I'm told, whether they were also shot by the alleged gunman or somehow got caught in some crossfire. But in any event, what eventually happened according to the police here is that it was El Al security, armed security, because El Al has, as you know, a reputation around the world for very...

WOODRUFF: Charles Feldman, I'm going to interrupt you because we have another breaking story in Los Angeles. We don't know the magnitude of it.

These are live pictures from the Los Angeles suburb of San Dimas, where we are told that a small plane has crashed into a crowd of people. We don't know the size of the crowd. But we are told that at least six people are injured. These are live pictures coming to us from, I believe it's KTLA. Let's listen in just a moment to the live anchor -- live traffic there.

All right. This is -- you can see this is the debris of the plane, a small plane. We had can't tell what size, but clearly a small plane that crashed into an area by -- it looks like a creek or a river in what we are told is San Dimas, California. This is a suburb of Los Angeles.

We don't know when this happened. But we know that it did crash. You can see that right there. And we know that at least six people are injured. Now, this comes just at the same time, we are listening to reports of the shooting at Los Angeles Airport, two events that have clearly much of the country on edge right now across the country on this Fourth of July.




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