LAX shooting brings airport security debate back to forefront

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - When a lone gunman opened fire Friday at a security checkpoint inside Terminal 3 at LAX, Devin Pitts was on his way to Houston with his girlfriend when he was evacuated from Terminal 1. Mayhem and confusion followed.

"Once everyone found out there was a shooter, there was a slight bit of panic and people getting away from windows," Pitts said.

Pitts and scores of other travelers were evacuated from the terminal to the tarmac where they waited 35 minutes before boarding a bus that would take them to Terminal 2.

"I saw heavy security leaving from the terminal and everyone rushing to Terminal 3 and police cars going the wrong way on the tarmac," Pitts said.

The shooting prompted a ground stop, causing delays on outgoing flights at Bush Intercontinental Airport and forcing Southwest Airlines to cancel some of its flights from LAX to Houston's Hobby Airport. Pitts told Local 2 his Southwest flight to Hobby was among the cancellations.

"So now it's the waiting game to see if we can get to Houston," Pitts said.

The shooting at LAX has once again re-ignited the debate here at home over airport security and whether metal detectors or screenings between terminal entrances and security checkpoints could prevent such tragedies.

"A shooter could go anywhere. It's no worse in here than on the streets outside," said traveler Bjorn Bleie.

Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport was the last airport in the U.S. to have an active shooter event. Back in May, 29-year-old Carnell Moore parked his truck alongside Terminal B, walked inside the terminal and fired a gun. He was killed after he was confronted by law enforcement.

The suicide note he left behind in his truck said he had big plans, but decided to show mercy on others.

Two weeks after that shooting, Houston airports added more security personnel to keep traffic moving around airport terminals.

"I never really thought about this area being unsafe. I don't spend a lot of time out here. But maybe they need to have security at the door," said traveler Connie Buchmaster.

According to a weekly TSA blog, agents at IAH found four guns in carry-on bags this week; three were loaded. The latest discovery was Thursday when agents found a loaded .22 caliber pistol. They found two weapons on Tuesday and one on Monday.

"Push it up and make it where everybody can be safe to come in because anybody can walk in now and you never know," said traveler Susan Jones.

The city's aviation department was supposed to add 25 part-time employees for traffic control. Houston is also considering hiring an on-site towing service to clear unattended cars left near terminal buildings.

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