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THE SITUATION ROOM

Shooting at LAX

Aired November 1, 2013 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. We're continuing the breaking news, as you say, chaos in Los Angeles International Airport. A gunman opens fire, storming the terminal, hundreds running for their lives, hiding under benches, fleeing on to the tarmac. At least one TSA officer is dead, multiple others, injured.

New pictures coming in now, including a weapon at the scene, face-to-face with the shooter, we'll speak live to a witness who saw the gunman inside the airport. He calls the scene mass pandemonium. Who is this suspect?

Breaking details from law enforcement sources on the ground and here in Washington about a possible motive.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This is a SITUATION ROOM special report, Shooting at LAX

You're looking at live pictures from Los Angeles International Airport. Police are on the scene at this hour. The investigation, an intense investigation, is certainly underway.

They're trying to piece together what happened when police say a man pulled an assault rifle from a bag and began shooting -- a shooting rampage at a security checkpoint.

This was the scene inside the airport -- crowds of people taking cover in a bathroom stall, lots of shattered glass and a screening area torn upside down. Outside the airport, a makeshift triage center and victims being loaded into ambulances.

CNN has team coverage of this developing story.

Our reporters are fanned out from LA to Washington.

But let's begin this hour with Casey Wian.

He's been breaking details over at LAX -- Casey, what is the very latest?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very latest, Wolf, four-and-a-half hours ago, as you mentioned, a gunman walked into Terminal Three here at Los Angeles International Airport, pulled what authorities say is an assault rifle out of a bag and began open firing at a TSA checkpoint. A TSA officer was hit and killed, according to law enforcement sources. As many as seven folks injured, taken to local hospitals.

Flights here at Los Angeles International Airport were stopped for some time. They are -- some of them have resumed, though at a much, much slower pace. Law enforcement authorities say they are continuing an investigation that could last hours, perhaps even into the next several days.

Airport authorities say it may be some time before that terminal gets back to full operation. There has been what has been described as terror inside the airport. Outside the airport, chaos continues hours later. You can look over here and you can see people who are walking to the airport. And we're still about a mile or so away from the terminals -- people who can't get their cars, because you can see down the road there, police have stopped traffic. They are walking to their flights, not knowing whether their flights are going to take off, not knowing when their flights are going to take off.

We're also seeing people coming from the airport, trying to rendezvous with family members here outside the airport because they've been unable to get taxis. And again, I want to stress that airport officials say there are some flights that are taking off, some flights that are landing, but it's going to be quite some time before this airport returns to normal while this investigation continues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know when local the authorities -- the mayor, the police, they will be holding their next news conference?

WIAN: We do not. We have not heard an update since that news conference at around 11:30 local time. What we do know is the Los Angeles Police Department, just a few minutes ago, sent out a Tweet, saying that as soon as Terminals One, Two and Three -- those are the terminals right behind me -- are cleared by law enforcement, flights will be allowed to depart. You can see these trademark planes of Southwest Airlines over there in the distance. Those planes have been sitting there all morning long, not allowed to move, though there is more activity on the other side of the airport.

We should also point out that Loretta Sanchez, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez from California, a member of the House Homeland Security Community -- Committee, I should say, just said on CNN's air not that long ago that the shooter, the suspect is a 23-year-old man, contrary to some speculation that's been out there over the -- throughout the morning. He is not an employee of the TSA -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Casey Wian on the scene for us.

Stand by.

I want to bring in our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick.

She's getting new information from law enforcement sources.

What are you learning -- Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, what we're learning right now is that apparently, this individual was, indeed, targeting TSA agents. We're told by a law enforcement official that they're looking into eyewitness reports in which he said that as he was making his way down the terminal to the gate, that he was asking people whether they were TSA. And then when they responded no, he would simply move on.

We are told that he entered the airport. He had a concealed assault rifle in a bag. He took it out, went directly over to the screeners and began opening fire.

One TSA agent was fatally shot, another injured in the leg, according to an official statement by the head of that agency. There were at least -- or about five, less than five TSA agents who were hurt in this particular incident. We know of two who were shot. We don't know whether the other injuries were as a result of the ensuing stampede.

But he did make his way down the terminal. He got to the gate. And that's when officers, both from the LAPD and Los Angeles Airport Police, were able to open fire. They hit the gunman three times in the chest, center mass.

He did have on him three magazines. One of them was actually in the firearm. The other two were in the clothing that he was wearing. He did go down quickly. He did go down quickly. He was taken to a local hospital, where he is being treated. He is officially in custody. We do not know his condition yet.

But again, they are looking into the possibility that he was specifically and deliberately targeting TSA agents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as you say, search warrants are now being executed in two locations, one in Los Angeles and one in New Jersey, is that right?

FEYERICK: That's exactly correct. We're being told by a law enforcement official that, in fact, he had two -- he was linked to those two locations, in Los Angeles and New Jersey. And just so you're aware, standard operating procedure right now is for any agency to send in a bomb squad first, because they just don't know what the threat is. So the whole -- the areas have to be cleared before investigators can actually go in to see what is there.

But again, we are being told that he was apparently looking for TSA agents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Our Deb Feyerick working her sources.

Thanks very much.

Joining us on the phone right now is Tom Lagos. He was there, a passenger, an eyewitness, and actually saw the gunman.

First, of all, Tom, how are you doing?

TOM LAGOS, EYEWITNESS TO LAX SHOOTING: Well, I'm a little shaken up. It's been a long day. You know, my wife and I were on a flight -- or we were delayed on a flight trying to get back to New York for the New York City Marathon this weekend and -- when this whole thing erupted.

BLITZER: So tell us what you saw, because I understand you actually saw the suspect, the shooter?

LAGOS: Yes, that's correct. Well, at first, it was difficult to know exactly what was going on. But there was just a mass, a stampede of people coming toward our direction, toward the terminals.

And at first, people started hitting the ground. It wasn't clear what was happening. My initial gut reaction was maybe somebody had seen a bomb and people were taking cover.

Then some of the doors to the tarmac opened and people started filing out. And I sort of went outside at first. And my wife reminded me, hey, I left my purse back in there. So I went back and got her purse. And I saw the man walking around very cautiously, nonchalantly.

BLITZER: Was he holding his weapon?

LAGOS: Yes.

BLITZER: That must have been a frightening moment for you.

LAGOS: Yes. That's, you know, at first, I thought it might have been law enforcement, but then I came to realize that it wasn't. And I just kind of walked right out to the tarmac with everybody else.

BLITZER: What did this guy look like?

LAGOS: Slender, wearing baggy clothes, younger, white, kind of like camouflage -- he wasn't wearing camouflage. It more like a darker flannel type clothing, but very baggy.

BLITZER: Did you have any sense what kind of weapon the rifle, the weapon, was?

LAGOS: And it just looked like a long rifle.

BLITZER: It just looked...

LAGOS: I couldn't tell if it was, you know, one barrel, two barrels. It was just a long rifle. And he was -- you know, what struck me was how calm he was walking around. And nobody was really engaging him at that moment, but he was just kind of slowly walking around the terminal.

BLITZER: And had he already fired his shots when you saw him or was that going to unfold later?

LAGOS: Well, I would have to, knowing what I know now, I would have to assume that he already had, just because he was way inside the terminal. He was way past security. And one night -- you know, one of the first waves of people that I saw running toward us were the TSA agents.

BLITZER: And how were people reacting when this was going on?

There were hundreds of passengers there.

LAGOS: Yes. There was a couple of delayed flights. There was one flight to Newark and one flight to Philadelphia. So there were a lot of people in the terminal. And everybody just took for cover until the tarmac doors opened and everybody started filing out onto the tarmac.

BLITZER: And then what did you do then?

After you saw this guy and you saw the weapon, what did you do?

LAGOS: I just got out of there. I just got out of there as soon as I could and went out to the tarmac.

BLITZER: Was it an organized departure for everyone or it was just sort of mass pandemonium?

LAGOS: You know, it was a -- it was mass pandemonium, you know, a lot of frightened people. There was a lot of families with kids. And -- but you know, once everybody got to the tarmac, I think there was a little bit more calm. And the airport did a good job of getting the buses out to everybody to get us to another location.

BLITZER: Are you still at the airport, Tom, right now?

LAGOS: Yes, we're still at the airport. In fact, I've been waiting at another terminal, the International Terminal, where they kind of kept us there for up until about 20 minutes ago. And then law enforcement is just now gathering us. There's about 50 witnesses. And they're separating those who saw the shooter, those that saw him actually fire the gun and those that actually saw him get shot.

BLITZER: Now, you didn't hear him say anything, did you?

LAGOS: No. Not at all. He was too -- you know, when I saw him, it was -- he was a good maybe 50 to 60 yards away from me.

BLITZER: All right. Well, you're OK now and everything is, hopefully, going to get relatively back to normal. I hope so.

LAGOS: Yes. I hope so. I'm just trying to -- hopefully we'll get to New York soon.

BLITZER: Tom Lagos, thanks very much for that eyewitness report.

Good luck to you. LAGOS: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: We're following every detail of the breaking news. We'll bring you all the new information as it comes into THE SITUATION ROOM. We have our correspondents from all corners of the network working their sources right here.

Stay with us.

Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bullets flying inside Los Angeles International Airport. One witness built a wall of luggage to try to protect himself and his family. We're going to hear him describe the fear and the panic, when our SITUATION ROOM special report continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our SITUATION ROOM special report. When the gunfire rang out at L.A.X., some panicked passengers tried to barricade themselves behind luggage. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINO LINARES, WITNESS: We heard one shot and we were like all right, cool. We heard the second one and that's when we all ducked. At first, the first shot just like kind of caught us off guard. Second shot went in and then I just got luggage and I started making walls and walls out of luggages. And then, I could see the guy as he's walking towards the escalator and he's just pointing down past us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy with the gun?

LINARES: Yes, the guy with the gun. He was just pointing down the escalator. As I'm looking towards that person, then that's when I grabbed my wife. When he's not looking at us, that's when we ran. Next thing you know, there's like six other people holding my wife's hand and we ran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did that guy look like? Did you see him well enough for a good description?

LINARES: He was wearing all blue like description, it was like one of these people that work in here. Like you know, couldn't even tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's here in the SITUATION ROOM. I know you're working your sources, Jim. What are you hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a few things on whether this is tied to international terrorism, no indications of that. But in light of the words that he said about government employees, TSA employees, they can't rule out a form of domestic terrorism. Couple other things about the victim.

He's the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty and just to give you a sense of the level of security at an airport like L.A.X. which has been the target of terror attacks in the past, there are 2,157 TSA officers just in that one airport there. To give you a sense of the level of security required to keep an airport safe, TSA officers are not armed, they haven't asked to be armed.

They like to have that responsibility taken over by the other armed officers in the airport. You'll have airport police, you'll have the Department of Homeland Security has a force called homeland security investigations, they're armed in the airport. They prefer to leave that job to the armed officers. They have lobbied for the power to arrest, however, which they don't have at this point.

So, you're getting a number of details about this and they often talk about how they're in the front lines and this is proof that those TSA officers are very much on the front lines.

BLITZER: We just got a statement from the acting secretary of Homeland Security, Rand Beers, saying this act of violence reminds us of the risks the brave men and women of TSA face every day as they work to protect the traveling public, and it ends by saying "as always, our security posture which at all times includes a number of measures both seen and unseen will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people."

A lot of folks don't necessarily recognize how brave a lot of these TSA officers at airports are. They think they're just patting us down and making us take off our shoes.

SCIUTTO: Well, exactly. and they are the first ones to face that threat. They're the first line of defense. And it's something that we checked out earlier today to see, are they armed, are any of them armed and none of them armed, and in fact, they haven't asked for that power. So, they really do face that risk together and they face it with a good amount of courage.

BLITZER: Let's thank them for all the good work they do. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that.

Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's over at the magic wall along with our CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes. Guys, you're mapping out how all of this went down.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. According to Patrick Shannon, the police chief of the L.A.X. Airport, Wolf, the shooter made his way in at the beginning, at the lead here of the terminal. He could have come in through the front area, could have come in through an exit. They're not quite sure yet. Began opening fire after he opened up a bag and pulled out an assault rifle according to the police, then shot his way past TSA passenger screening.

Tom, I'm going to bring you in here. And Tom is also, we should tell viewers, a former S.W.A.T. team member at the FBI who dealt with airport security. Tom, first of all, you heard Jim Sciutto mentioned just a moment ago TSA officers are not armed. Obviously, if he's shooting, he gets past here easily and should they rethink this rule. Should they be armed at this point to be able to stop someone here?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, TSA's position over the years is that leave that to armed police officers who have the training and the shoot/don't shoot training, firearms training. It's an expensive proposition to train thousands of people to shoot firearms, be armed, and they also worry that a crazed passenger might jump on them and take the gun away from a TSA agent. So, they don't want that either. But, where are the armed police? If they're not armed, why aren't they backed up right here.

TODD: Right.

FUENTES: So, this individual blasts his way through the checkpoint, comes down through the terminal this way, hasn't fired on other people yet, and by the way, backing up for a second, if the motive is to kill TSA people because he has something against them, why go past, why not stay and finish them off?

TODD: You're saying the TSA officers will not be down into these areas?

FUENTES: Well, they're not likely to be. Not compared to all the ones at the checkpoint. Some are checking your I.D.s, passports, boarding passes, and then manning the magnetometers. Frankly, if you've already wounded, killed one and wounded others, why wouldn't you stay and finish off all the TSA people while you had the chance? But he doesn't. He moves down.

TODD: To the food court here where -- there's a Burger King here where, according to the police, this is where he's disabled, in this area. Hundreds of feet from there.

FUENTES: Correct.

TODD: First, how does he get that far?

FUENTES: Well, he hasn't encountered anybody from armed law enforcement up to that point that could stop him. And certainly, passengers aren't going to take the role into their own hands if they're unarmed, which they are. Now, he gets to this point. He finally encounters an armed police officer and fortunately, the officer is able to stop him, to shoot him and get him down right here.

TODD: It is a much more daunting scenario if he's not stopped here.

FUENTES: If he's not stopped there, how many of these gates, 31 through 39, how many of these gates have aircraft sitting there? Of the aircraft sitting at those gates, how many have doors open because passengers are boarding or disembarking? Of the ones with doors open, how many already have the flight crew and the pilot sitting in the seat while passengers -- I just went through L.A.X.

I just boarded aircraft there a week ago. When I boarded, you know, I get on the plane, sitting in my seat, I look up the aisle and I can see right into the cockpit and I see the pilot and co-pilot doing their preflight list with the cockpit door wide open.

So, if this guy comes storming down the way, is not stopped by a police officer, goes through the first gate, the first open jet way, the first open jet door, and the first open cockpit, he's in the cockpit of an aircraft and this is the first time since 9/11 someone has done that.

TODD: OK. But let's say he gets in there. There could be service vehicles attached to the plane here. There could be the flight crew may not even be in there. Can he still successfully hijack the plane?

FUENTES: He puts that gun to the head of the pilot, the pilot radios in that I'm being held at gun point with a gun to my head, take away the baggage cart, take away the food carts, disconnect the gas trucks. He wants the fly this plane or he's going to kill me and possibly 50 or 100 people that have already boarded that aircraft.

And once he's on that aircraft and has access to the cockpit, you have another potential 9/11. If he wants to put that plane in the air, what could happen?

TODD: One more crucial question. As he's making his way down here, you've been responding law enforcement officer, how do you take that person down, disable him, when there are hundreds if not thousands of people all around here? How do you do it?

FUENTES: Well, as we talked about in earlier shooting incidents, the woman in Washington with the car, an officer which this officer made that decision. When he opens fire on him, he knows there's passengers all up and down this passageway --

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: But he realizes at that point he has to stop this person at all cost, even taking the risk that he might miss and kill someone that's a good guy down range. He just has to -- this has to be stopped.

TODD: All right. Tom, thanks very much. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Good discussion. Lots of information.

Coming up, passengers at L.A.X. ordered to keep running as the gunman moved closer. We're going to hear from a witness who says she was scared, she started crying, she panicked. All of our reporters at L.A.X., indeed, around the country, they are watching this story. Search warrants now in effect both in L.A.X., at the suspect's residence there, as well as New Jersey, a search warrant under way there as well.

We've got teams of reporters, analysts watching what's going on. More eyewitness accounts. The drama continues at L.A.X. Our special coverage here in the SITUATION ROOM resumes right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The shooting at L.A.X. sent witnesses running for their lives. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE RODRIGUEZ, WITNESS: We heard like the first shotgun and we were just looking at everybody, trying to figure out what was going on, and then the rest of the shotguns came and then my husband just grabbed me and put me on the floor, and I was really scared and crying and you know, I was panicked, and then he just told me OK, when they stop shooting, you need to head out the door.

We started running out the door. We left all of our stuff behind. And then, we were already outside, and then, we just heard like the security people saying you guys need to keep running because like he was coming toward us more this way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Powerful story. Let's bring in CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez. Evan, I know you're working your sources as well. What's the latest? What are you hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, I mean, the focus of investigators at this hour is what's the motive here, what was this gunman looking to do? We know he entered the terminal and started shooting. It seemed to be focused at shooting TSA employees.

We're told that in his bag, in the bag that he was carrying where he took the gun from, took the rifle from, that authorities recovered a letter of some kind with a rant against the government and specifically against the TSA. We don't know exactly what the cause of this was. We don't know whether there was some beef he had with the TSA previously personally.

But we know that authorities believe that he went in there and he was looking to kill TSA employees. And again, at this hour, we're still trying to figure out, the authorities are still trying to figure out where that came from, what is the cause of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume they know his name, they know his address.

PEREZ: Correct.

BLITZER: I assume they're going through social media, trying to determine if there is more evidence there showing that there was a specific motive, if you will, to try to go ahead and allegedly kill TSA officials. PEREZ: Right. That's exactly what they're trying to do. They're trying to determine whether he belonged to any groups that are known or perhaps that they didn't know about in the Los Angeles area. We know that he lived in Los Angeles area recently, but they're also doing a search of a previous address where, perhaps, he had some family members in New Jersey, and also looking to interview people who know him.

Now, again, this is -- this is all early information that the authorities have recovered and they still are trying to piece it together as to what exactly motivated him to carry out this shooting today.

BLITZER: All right, Evan, I know you're going to continue to work your sources. We'll get back to you. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more now. Joining us, Rafi Ron, he's a security expert who's worked at Boston Logan Airport, also the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport, El-Al Airlines as well.

Rafi, thanks very much for coming in.

Jim Sciutto is going to help with the questioning.

Is there really anything that can be done, if someone shows up at LAX or any other airport before you get to the security perimeter, if you will, the TSA checkpoints, has a bag, has a weapon inside, and then he just opens the bag at the TSA checkpoint, and starts shooting people, what can be done about that?

RAFI RON, AIRPORT SECURITY EXPERT: Well, first of all, we have to be realistic and understand that this cannot be completely avoided. But the question here is, what can we do in order to prevent on one hand and respond very quickly if it occurs in order to minimize the damage.

BLITZER: So what should the TSA, for example, local police authorities, FBI, others, be doing? Obviously there was a hole here. I don't know what you would recommend.

RON: Well, I think that we have a problem that since 9/11, we have been focusing on passengers and the threat that they present to the flight. We have paid relatively little attention to the airport as a facility that needs to be secured. And keeping in mind that way back in the '70s, at the peak of the attacks against international aviation, most European airports from Munich to Athens to Paris to Rome and Vienna, and almost every single major airport in Europe was attacked on the ground by terrorists.

This time, we may have a single shooter which is a relatively limited event, but imagine that instead of that, we would have had an attack, a Mumbai-style attack, with a group of trained terrorists that have prepared themselves well, the result would have been very, very different.

BLITZER: And, Jim, you know, the TSA, I assume, they are going to be looking at this, studying it to see what they can do maybe to make some changes in their procedures to prevent this kind of activity.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. It is something they prepared for. Just three weeks ago, they did a training situation at the airport for an active shooter situation.

BLITZER: At LAX.

SCIUTTO: At LAX. This is the kind of airport I imagine they would know they'd have to do that kind of thing. But I wanted to ask you, LAX has been the target of attacks in the past, it was part of the millennium plot 2000, Ahmed Rassam was going to bomb the airport in 2002. There was a shooting at the El-Al counter there.

Whether this is -- we don't know if it's terrorism yet, but if it's -- it doesn't look like international, possibly domestic terrorism in light of the targets. And terrorists like to go after spectacular targets, targets that attract attention. I imagine when you look at LAX, major airport, one of the busiest in the country, one of the busiest in the world, does that add value when terrorists are choosing their targets?

RON: Of course it does. But they -- we have to understand the dynamics of terrorism. When you protect well the top priority target, then they move to the second level targets. The -- expect for example what happened in Europe or in Israel to be more specific. Aviation became difficult, they started attacking buses. So you can expect on one hand, the high profile of some of the airports to suddenly become a motivator or a factor in the decision whether to select this target for terrorism or not by terrorists, of course. But at the same time, that doesn't mean that second level airports are immune against them.

SCIUTTO: One question about arming, when we have these shootings, often time the question comes up, should you arm more of the players around there so that they can fight back? The TSA officers actually not asking to be armed. They want to leave it to the folks who are trained. Do you think it would be better if TSA officers were armed?

RON: Well, I think that the first thing that we need to do is we have to look at the structure of responsibility and authority for security of the terminals. I think right now, it's not always 100 percent clear. There's the local police that eventually have to deal with situations when they occur, but they're not necessarily extremely well-prepared always at every airport because this is a local decision.

It is to some extent regulated by TSA but I think that that regulation has to go much deeper and has to create stronger standards and has to set performance standards, and the nation has to respond to that at the federal level.

BLITZER: Rafi, we're going to have you stand by. Jim, of course, is going to be with us. All of our team coverage is in place right now at LAX, all around the country. We are trying to figure out what happened together with all of you.

President Obama, he spoke out today about the LAX shooting. We're going live to the White House when we come back.

We'll also go back to Los Angeles, to the hospital where three of the victims are now being treated.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here in the SITUATION ROOM following the breaking news. TSA officers shot at LAX, one of them killed. We're learning new information about the suspect right now. We have our correspondents, our analysts, they're working the story from L.A. to Washington.

Our SITUATION ROOM special report, "Shooting at LAX" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're continuing our special coverage of the shooting today at LAX. Kyung Lah is on the scene for us.

Kyung, a lot of passengers, they are still stranded there as this investigation continues. Set the scene for us. What's it like at LAX right now?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you exactly where I am. I'm right outside Terminal One, we're standing -- and you can see for yourself, Wolf, a sea of passengers here. And these aren't just passengers who have recently arrived. The shooting happened five plus hours ago. A lot of these folks are international travelers. You can see that they're carrying their bags. There are even some children who are here. They have been stuck here.

There hasn't been a lot of information so yes, this is a very important federal crime case but at the same time, this is also a story about hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people being impacted by one of the nation's largest airports grinding to a halt.

I'm going to walk over to this gentleman over here, and you just -- we were just chatting a second ago. How long have you been waiting here, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we got to the airport about 10:30, 10:45. So it's been about four hours.

LAH: About four hours. Four hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LAH: And this is not that unusual. If you go through and talk to people in this airport, Wolf, they're all very concerned. Many people are staying calm because they know that something very serious has happened here, but at the same time, they're very confused. They don't know if they should leave, if they do leave, they don't have any car so they've got to walk, so people are walking up and down main thoroughfares here in Los Angeles carrying their -- wheeling their bags. So it is also a very confusing situation for people here.

And one thing, Wolf, I also found this quite interesting. I actually talked to a man who told him that United Airlines had perhaps thought he should pay for his change of flight fare and he had to fight to get that removed. So there's a lot of confusion here for the people who are still waiting for LAX to come out of gridlock -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There are some flights taking off, some flights landing, but it's going to be awhile, Kyung, before that airport gets back to some semblance of normal flight schedules, right?

LAH: Absolutely. We can't hear -- you know, I've been here many, many times at LAX, you normally hear this echo of planes taking on, leaving or arriving. You're not hearing any of that. The planes that were in the air were allowed to land. It's a little questionable right now as to what the FAA is going to do as far as all of this sort of coming unlocked.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah on the scene for us at LAX. Kyung, thanks very, very much. We're going to have more breaking news ahead. We are also going to hear from one eyewitness who hid under a plane for safety.

Our SITUATION ROOM special report, "Shooting at LAX" continues. We have our correspondents and analysts, they're working the story from L.A. to Washington.

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BLITZER: We're continuing to follow the breaking news out of LAX, the shooting there today. We have our correspondents, our analysts, they're working the story from L.A. to Washington, all locations. Stand by. Much more after this.

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BLITZER: The shooting at LAX sent passengers by the hundreds fleeing for safety. Some were whisked out of the terminal and on to the tarmac. Listen to this.

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TORI BELLECI, WITNESS: I was in the terminal when the shooting took place. I was just waiting. I was actually -- we've been delayed. We had a flight at 8:00 and we got delayed until like 10:30, and then all of a sudden I heard shots. But it didn't really register until everybody started like flying down the hallway and they were just like jumping over chairs, jumping over people, hiding, and we were kind of trapped at the end of the terminal.

Now I never saw the shooter but we heard the shots, and then we were kind of trapped at the end of the terminal and it seemed like an eternity, but finally the security came, opened up the door and we all piled out on to the tarmac and just kind of hid underneath the plane. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What a terrifying moment.

Let's get some more from Mary Schiavo, the former Transportation Department inspector general.

Thanks, Mary, for coming in. What kind of training, law enforcement training, weapons training, if any, do these TSA officers at airports receive?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, the TSA agents have great law enforcement training but they are not armed so it's a different level of federal law enforcement agent. To have an agent that's trained and that has the weapons qualification, they have to undergo much more intensive weapons training and they have to re-qualify on that weapon every 30 days.

So it's just a different level of a fellow -- federal officer and a much more intensive training. That the TSA does not have.

BLITZER: They're not -- they're not armed. And apparently they don't want to be.

SCHIAVO: That's right.

BLITZER: Do you think they should be armed?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think some people have to be armed. Some law enforcement has to be armed at the airport. I'm old enough to remember the airports that Rafi Ran and others were talking about back in the '70s and '80s, when they had so many attacks in Europe. And it was very common in European airports to see officers armed in the terminal and in the sterile areas, but the whole thought of the TSA was -- security was so bad on September 11th, 2001, that the idea was that the TSA would be better, better trained and they are, but that they would be the line between the non-sterile areas and then the sterile areas.

And then the idea with the sterile areas, the airport, the gates, is that there would be no weapons except on federal law enforcement agents or local police. And I think we need to rethink that because we do need a police presence at the LAX. And I was there at the 2002 shooting, and the same questions were asked. Why don't we have more of a police presence? And so it's probably time we ask those questions again.

BLITZER: I assume that automatically they're going to be reviewing procedures in the aftermath of this incident. Apparently the suspect -- the shooter here showed up at the checkpoint, the TSA checkpoint and took this weapon out of a bag and just started firing. The TSA officers there were like sitting ducks.

SCHIAVO: Yes, they were. And it's a very interesting situation, because the TSA knows, they have a press release done at every month. This year they have set record levels for taking guns off passengers. Now these are passengers who forgot that the weapons were in their bags, but there are a lot of weapons at the airport. And they all converge on that checkpoint, so the TSA needs to reevaluate.

Remember, the shooting at LAX in 2002 was a lone gunman, three people died, but the FBI did rule that was terrorism, even though it was a disgruntled individual. So in the wake of that, for not changing procedures, I think this time they'll have to ask even harder questions, and say, you know, look, do we leave the TSA there as sitting ducks or we -- give them even more powers? And they have more powers than the old, you know, security agent that was in place in 2002. So the TSA is far better, but they are sitting ducks.

BLITZER: The first line of security at U.S. airports is that TSA checkpoint. If you go to other airports around the world, as you have, whether in Europe or Africa, certainly at Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv, there are always checkpoints as you drive into the airport. They stop your vehicle. Is that something we should be considering here?

SCHIAVO: Well, and folks at least as old as me will remember that we did that in the wake of September 11th, 2001. And we did have those kinds of checkpoints. But I do think we have to reevaluate. Now LAX is particularly difficult because we have so many different terminals. And a lot of airports you have one main entranceway, like Atlanta, that gets you into, you know, all the areas of the airport, but it's much easier to secure it.

Airports like LAX, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Kansas City, there are so many portals into the airports and so many areas to secure that they're tough. And LAX is one of those tough airports with so many different portals in. So they have additional issues that maybe some other airports like Hartsfield don't have.

BLITZER: Mary Schiavo, thanks very for coming in.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, more chilling witness accounts from inside the LAX shooting. Just as it was happening. We have our correspondents and analysts, they're standing by. They're working the story as well. Much more as our special coverage continues.

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BLITZER: We're getting more information on the LAX shooting today. We're following all parts of this story. Lots of unanswered questions. Our correspondents and analysts are working the story. Much more in the SITUATION ROOM special report, right after this.

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BLITZER: We have chilling witness accounts just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM from the first moments of the rampage. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a major, major incident working here at LAX, and this is going to be ongoing for probably the better part of the -- well, the next couple of hours, at least. Again an active shooter is what the initial report is at this point.

BLITZER: And so where are you now? Are you still inside or do you get outside now?

ALEX NUEMANN, WITNESS: We are -- we under lockdown on Terminal 2 of the International Terminal. And we just -- waiting words from anybody, to be honest with you. We have no idea what's going on.

BLITZER: So you're just -- they just moved you to Terminal 2, which is presumably secure, right?

NUEMANN: Yes. I feel very secure in here. There's about maybe two minutes officers around this area. And they all have their guns drawn. So I feel very secure at the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of fluidity to this situation here. There is just a lot of unfolding minute by minute action that is -- that is happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a guy downstairs started shooting, and one guy fell down. Panic erupted, and he was setting up through the security check. Just three loud pops and everybody started panicking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly I heard a couple of popping noises, and I just turned to look. People were running into the bathrooms. People were screaming, run into the bathroom, you know, get behind something. We ran top speed, carrying our luggage. You know, I guess, it might have been more prudent to leave our luggage where it was, I suppose, but just -- you have what was in your hands and you just ran.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone from security told us to sprint and make a run for it. So we all sprinted, our stuff is back there. And we got -- I got pulled into a hallway. My friend (INAUDIBLE) and didn't get pulled into the hallway with me. I started screaming her name. And we got pulled into a room that they pulled a copy machine in front of the door and I was under a desk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could hear him yelling while he was shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was he yelling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't make it out. It was real angry.

BELLECI: And then all of a sudden I heard shots but it didn't really register until everybody started like flying down the hallway. They were just like jumping over chairs, jumping over people, hiding -- and we were kind of trapped at the end of the terminal. Now I never saw the shooter. But we heard the shots. It's probably the worst experience I've ever been in in my life. I mean, it's most terrifying. And you're always like kind of, you know, imagine what would you do? When you hear about these horrible instances, then you've got to kind of ask yourself what would I do in a situation like that?

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BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. We have new details and firsthand accounts of the terror at the terminal. A gunman shooting his way past security screeners and into the Los Angeles International Airport. With panicked passengers running for their lives.