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A Firsthand Account of the Chaotic Aftermath of LAX Shooting

If it had been a terrorist attack, the police officers, firefighters, and their vehicles would have made for a fat target for a follow-up attack.

by
Jack Dunphy

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November 3, 2013 - 10:37 am
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When called to the scene of a crime, the first and most important question a police officer must ask is, “What do I have?”  Once this question is answered, the necessary steps can then be taken to address whatever the problem happens to be.

In the case of Friday’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, the first officers on the scene, a sergeant and an officer from the L.A. World Airports Police Department, did exactly what was expected of them: They were informed of an “active shooter” in Terminal 3, they immediately sought him out, engaged him in a gunfight, and ended his rampage.  Only a few minutes elapsed between the first shot and the last.  After that, all that remained were the matters of crime-scene maintenance and investigation.  If only that had been the case.

Like hundreds of my colleagues in the LAPD, immediately after the shooting I was called from my regular duties and directed to report to LAX.  I arrived about 30 minutes after the shooting, by which time an atmosphere of confusion had already set in.  I was ordered first to one command post and then to another, and as I listened to the radio traffic I heard several groups of officers given similarly conflicting directions.  It was apparent that the person in charge, whoever it was, did not have a handle on things.

Rather than rely on official communications from the LAPD to learn what was happening, we who awaited orders in the command post resorted to back channels, calling and texting with colleagues inside the airport who were more current on the situation.  We learned that the incident had been confined to Terminal 3, one of the nine passenger terminals in the airport.  The gunman had been arrested after being wounded in a gunfight, but not before shooting several people, including a TSA agent.

In the confusion of the initial reports of a shooting, it was not unreasonable for authorities to call for a “ground stop” at the airport, halting all air traffic for a brief period so the airport could be assessed and stabilized.  The widespread assumption was that a terrorist attack was in progress, and if this had indeed been the case it surely would have called for a large-scale response from law enforcement.  But within minutes of the final shot being fired it was clear the gunman had acted alone and that no other parts of the airport had been affected.

Despite this, the entire airport and the surrounding area were thrown into chaos as police and fire resources poured in from all over Los Angeles, most of which were put to no good use once they arrived.  This concentration of resources posed a problem for two reasons.  First, even on an ordinary day in Los Angeles, both the police and fire departments can be stretched thin, with units from both sometimes traveling great distances to handle the daily call load.  With so many police officers and firefighters descending on LAX, those left behind to protect the rest of the city did so without the backup that is sometimes required.  I haven’t yet heard of any incidents in which this played out to ill effect, but the potential was there.

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Top Rated Comments   
This would be arm-chair quarterbacking if it weren't so true. I've watched movies where back in the heyday of the bank robbers where one of the gang would drive/ride through town shooting things up and draw off law enforcement into a chase - leaving the rest of the gang to go into town and rob the bank unimpeded. The dangers of lumping all of your resources in one spot could draw terrorists either to you or to the real target if such were that kind of attack.

This type of scenario is played out on a similar way almost daily throughout the USA. I remember when on my way to work one morning on I5 north of Everett Wa at 5 in the morning. A semi truck driver had apparently fell asleep and ended up on the side of the freeway with the truck on its side and OFF the freeway. With 3 lanes available and open the cops and plethora of aid and fire dept cars and trucks managed amongst themselves - whether by design or incompetence - to plug up all three lanes. I got out of my car and walked up and asked the closest trooper why the hell they had to block all three lanes I was told to get back in my car or face arrest. I held out my arms in a dare and asked him the same question again. He repeated his threat. A couple other drivers heard me ask him that question and started asking the same question - he quickly got on his radio (they wear them on their body) and asked if a lane could be cleared. I heard a thank you - the trooper said 'you're welcome' - to which the guy said - no not you - that guy - as he pointed to me! It took about 5 minutes to get underway. The report in the news later that day was the driver was uninjured.

I've seen such incidents time and time again when authorities simply have little or no consideration of how their actions affect the private citizen - and ofter their actions seem to indicate they do these things on purpose - plugging up highways is what Washington State Troopers do best. Why would they give a sh!t about whether someone is going to be late coming or going? They aren't simply doing their job - they are inconveniencing the private citizen - whether by design or by inconsideration - the results are the same.






38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (37)
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Jack,

Thanks for pointing out the stupidity of those who "run" LAPD. They panic at every "emergency" because they don't know what to do. Look at the LAPD over-reaction to the Dorner incident- embarrassing. 1992 riots? Shameful- Moulin all the way up to Gates. Gannon, the current Airport Chief, was a patrol sergeant at 77th during the riots but he never left the station!. If he had, he might have gained some valuable leadership and decision-making experience but putting down a riot was too dangerous for his career, so he hid out until it was over. These "commanders" are professional kiss-ups and politicians, and are amateurs when it comes to real-world decision-making. They spend their whole career in non-law enforcement positions, kissing-up and politicking to promote and don't gain the police experience needed to succeed in these emergencies. LAPD does not value police expertise and leadership and does not promote its field leaders to anything higher than sergeant. LAPD promotes its back office company clerks because they serve the boss and help him or her out politically. Remember Radar from the TV show "MASH?" In LAPD he would promote to Commander and actually be placed in charge of people. Public, beware- any LAPD officer you see who has a rank higher than sergeant does not know what he or she is doing!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the illegal evil rogue terrorist state of israael is dismantled and handed back to the legitimate owners, the Palestinians, Islamic terorrism would grind to a halt. I am a 54 yr Sri Lankan Muslim and am unable to fight physically, but would support the cause and fight spiritually to my last breath until entire Palestine is retaken. Islam would return eventually despite PJ endeavours. Jihad means to endeavour. The West Jihads and the Muslims Jihad. Lets wait and see whose Jihad is better. Remember, Jihad is our way of life.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The focus has become terrorism to the neglect of every other possibility. Not ony did LAPD overreact, their command and control is diffused and confused. If, and or but along with woulda, coulda, shoulda, CYA was the operative mode instead of being reality based. Let the situation pull resources instead of CYA pushing resources.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Most amazing "overkill response" I ever saw.. north of Seattle, four lane road in medium density residential area, sunny, dry day, mid-morning, somehoe a Honda managed to leave the roadway, cross the oncoming lanes (no traffic, so no one else hit) and end up in a grassy vacant lot after hopping the low kerb. Driver up and out of the vehilcle, vehicle undamaged, driver appeared to have no injuries. Within minutes they rolled TWO ambulances, one LARGE fire truck, and three city cop cars. WHAAAATTT!!! I am firmly convinced this practice of rolling everything for nothing is simply a ruse to "justify" more bonds to buy more equipment on the premise "we don't hav enough to go around". Of COURSE not, dummies!! You roll it all for a nothing incident, NO WONDER there's nothing back in the barn for the next nothing call. Talk about misuse of reesources...... and taxpayer funds. Stupid people.... and NO ONE ever questions deployment of equipment protocol when election time comes and they're wanting to buy another few mill worth of fancy new equipment.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've not yet seen any answers as to how this guy purchased an "assault rifle" from a "legally licensed dealer", as well as several 30 round magazines, all of which are illegal in in California. Versions of rifles sold here have to have a device to prevent removal of the magazine without a tool, which would be inconvenient when shooting up an airport. The magazines are illegal unless grandfathered from many years ago, and these are not sold in stores here.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

I see similar though thankfully smaller reactions to many crime and traffic accident scenes where multi-block areas are "taped off" and the flow of foot and vehicular traffic are disrupted for extended periods of time especially when a police officer is involved in the initial incident. While the threat of a follow on attack may not be present, the "authorities" lack of awareness of their impingement on the public makes me glad that they haven't yet been issued their official "Barrycades". Getting as much as possible back to normal seems to be well down their Rules of Engagement list.

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
the airport was still closed down hours later, and freeway off ramps were still shut down hours later.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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