A pickup truck carrying what appeared to be firearms and explosive weapons prompted police to activate security threat protocols, limit traffic, and summon the LAPD bomb squad to Los Angeles International Airport Friday morning. Some of the “weapons” turned out to be harmless props, though a pistol and rifle were real, police said.
The emergency restrictions backed up traffic heading into the LAX Central Terminal area, and travelers worried about missing flights. Ultimately, police determined all of the devices were possessed legally and did not pose a threat, and that no crime had been committed.
Airport police were conducting a vehicle checkpoint at the entrance from northbound Sepulveda Blvd. arond 8:20am when the pickup’s driver volunteered that he had a weapon in the vehicle, and officers pulled it aside for inspection. What they saw prompted them to secure the area, block certain airport entrances, and launch an investigation that took 45 minutes, according to Airport Police Capt. Michael Scolaro.
The grenades were quickly determined to be inert movie props, according to the LAPD. One firearm was a nonworking replica and the other two — a rifle and a pistol — were legally registered to the owner.
The items were part of the man’s collection of military memorabilia, and used for military re-creations, the man told police. He said he had come to LAX to pick up a friend, a fellow devotee flying in for an event this weekend in Ventura County. Scolaro said the friend was also questioned and confirmed the man’s account.
The man was not arrested, and after speaking with investigators, was allowed to leave with his pickup and his real and replica weapons. The pickup had out of state license plates.
Although no threat or danger was found, airport police told NBC4 the precautions were warranted.
Five years ago at LAX, a disturbed man with a vendetta against the TSA had been dropped off at Terminal 3 with an assault rifle and ammunition hidden inside a bag. Inside the terminal, he began shooting, wounding three, and taking the life of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez.
On July 4, 2002, another armed lone attacker opened fire in the international terminal and killed two people and wounded four more before he was shot dead by an airline security officer.
Travelers cannot bring loaded guns to the airport, but are permitted to bring unloaded weapons that have been secured for transport as baggage.
If firearms are legal, unloaded, secured, and declared, they may be brought through an airport checkpoint.
“It may not be the smartest thing in the world to do,” Scolaro said. “But it’s legal.”
By 9:50 a.m. all police activity had concluded and all traffic lanes were reopened, but residual slowing extended through the afternoon.