Portion of LAX evacuated after traffic stop outside terminal

Passengers were temporarily evacuated Sunday from a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport after an arrest inadvertently led to a security breach during the busy Labor Day weekend, authorities said.

The incident began about 9 a.m., when Los Angeles Airport police pulled over a driver in a stolen vehicle at the airport’s lower level outside Terminal 3, said Officer Rob Pedregon. During the arrest, officers drew their guns and instructed nearby passengers on the sidewalk to move inside, he said.

Fearful for their safety, some passengers moved past the Transportation Security Administration screening area without being screened, creating a security breach, Pedregon said. As many as 20 others went through an emergency exit and onto the airfield, officials said.

Airport security rounded up those travelers and evacuated the gates, shops, restaurants and corridors inside Terminal 3, sending passengers back to the ticketing area, Pedregon said.


LAX police searched the terminal with bomb-sniffing dogs and, once the area was cleared, allowed passengers to return and be rescreened, he said.

Terminal 3 serves a handful of airlines, including Frontier, JetBlue and Virgin America. Sunday’s incident resulted in delays for 18 flights — nine arrivals and nine departures — and resulted in the rescreening of as many as 2,000 travelers, said Charles Pannunzio, a spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports.


Larry McKenney, 35, of Texas was arrested on suspicion of possessing a stolen 2013 Chevrolet Sonic and possessing narcotics, police said. He was taken to the LAPD’s Pacific Division jail, Pedregon said.

Four others who were in or near the car were questioned and released, police said.

Sunday’s evacuation occurred a week after false reports of an active shooter at LAX triggered a panic, with passengers stampeding from terminals and, in some cases onto the tarmac. The reports of gunfire in Terminals 6, 7 and 8 prompted airport police to shut down the central terminal area to incoming traffic.

As a further precaution, flight operations were temporarily stopped on the airport’s two southern runways.

An investigation of the Aug. 28 incident, which included review of closed-circuit television footage, later revealed no shots were fired.

Authorities suspect the panic might have been set off by loud noises in one of the terminals or by a possible misreading by the public of the police detention of a man carrying a plastic sword in Terminal 7 and the fast flow of information on social media.

Twitter: @davidzahniser



The soaring crown on L.A.'s new tallest skyscraper points to the future of the skyline

Police officers threaten boycott over Colin Kaepernick national anthem flap

Man killed in ‘walk-up’ shooting in Boyle Heights


4:42 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information from investigators. 

11:15 a.m.: This post has been updated with new information from airport police.

This post was originally published at 10:30 a.m.


The stories shaping California

Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.