Last Year's LAX Shooting Revealed Flaws in the Airport's Security System

The LAX communications system failed to identify to the origin of an emergency call, compromising the emergency response of police when a gunman opened fired, killing one TSA employee and injuring several other people, at the airport in November.

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The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) communications system failed to identify the origin of an emergency call, compromising the police response when a gunman opened fired last November, killing one TSA employee and injuring several other people.

Two anonymous officials told the Associated Press in that a screening supervisor had placed the call, but fled the area to avoid the shooter before he could answer police dispatcher questions. Law enforcement only learned the location of the crisis once a contractor on the scene called from his cellphone to report the shooting. Overall, it took 90 seconds from the time of the initial call until officers were dispatched to the area.

According to security expert Douglas Laird, the phone error was a big one. If "dispatch doesn't know where the call is coming from, that shows there's a serious flaw, obviously," he told the AP. He added that most emergency call systems show where the call was placed automatically.

The full LAX security review, including interviews with airport staff, first responders and law enforcement and analysis of security footage, dispatch logs and 911 calls, won't be published until next month. The two officials told the AP that it concludes that the emergency response was quick, but that there are certain inherent flaws in the system like broken "panic buttons," the fact that 911 calls placed at the airport are directed to the California Highway Patrol or LAPD instead of airport police dispatchers, limited security camera views and a PA system that doesn't allow for simultaneous announcements throughout the airport.

Last month, the AP reported that the two LAX police officers went on break without telling a supervisor, in violation of policy, minutes before the shooting. The report was rebuffed by LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon, who said that "they were as quick as anybody else was to deal with those particular issues."

The alleged shooter, Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, was reportedly targeting TSA employees. The victim, Gerardo Hernandez, is the first TSA officer to have been killed in the line of duty. Ciancia has plead not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.