By Ricardo Torres-Cortez Las Vegas Review-Journal
An unruly person at Harry Reid International Airport sparked a false shooting scare that unleashed panic early Sunday and delayed flights throughout the day, according to officials.
The Metropolitan Police Department said it responded about 4:30 a.m. to a report of a shooting at Terminal 1, a threat officers later determined to be unfounded. The person who allegedly caused the ruckus was detained, although it was not clear what, if any, charges they would face.
But the loud noise caused travelers to panic, and some rushed through security checkpoints, an airport spokesman wrote in an email.
With security breached, Transportation Safety Administration officers had to rescreen travelers they had already checked, airport officials said.
Flights were held, setting off a chain of delays that were expected to continue through Sunday, said officials, noting that cancellations were possible.
Flightaware, a flight-tracking website, late Sunday morning reported departure delays of up to 30 minutes due to “taxiway congestion.”
About 55 inbound and outbound flights were canceled and over 400 were delayed, according to Flightaware.
“I’ve been told that passenger traffic and lines at ticketing and the security checkpoint are at commonly observed Sunday levels,” said Joseph Rajchel, a spokesman for Harry Reid International Airport, in an email late Sunday afternoon.
Michelle Shafer, a Texas resident who had been in Las Vegas for a convention, missed her 9:20 a.m. Southwest Airlines flight to Portland, and was rescheduled for another one more than four hours later.
She arrived at the airport at about 7:30 a.m. and encountered disarray.
“I’ve seen airports this busy, but not this chaotic, without direction,” she said, noting that the “biggest problem” was the lack of information being shared by officials. She saw officers patrolling and witnessed airport employees’ attempts to share information muffled by the noise.
A traveler who only shared his first name, Ron, said he had already made it through TSA before hearing reports of a shooter, calling the scene “chaotic” with “everybody’s rushing and running.”
“There must have been 1,000 people trying to get through as last calls about flights leaving were broadcast over a loudspeaker,” he said, adding that “by the time I get there, my flight is gone.”
His flight to Houston was rescheduled for Monday morning with a six-hour layover, he said.
“They tell me there’s nothing they can do,” he said.
Two sisters from New Zealand who were to fly to New York on Sunday morning, called off the flight for a day.
It was just too much chaos and unknown, said Cinamin and Sapphire Collins. They said they didn’t hear the loud noise, but saw people fleeing.
“It was just too scary and confusing,” Cinamin Collins said.
After spending a few hours outside the terminal they decided to make the final leg to home via New York and London starting Monday. They have toured the U.S. for more than two months, they said.
Last month, another false report of a shooter, sparked by the sound of shattered glass at the MGM Grand, caused panic on the Strip. People who fled the area said there was a shooting “created a chain reaction of information,” police said at the time. Videos posted on social media captured scenes of people running, some of whom were trampled.
In that incident, a 42-year-old man was charged with a misdemeanor count of destroying property.