Mythbusters co-stars Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara were inside Terminal 3 when a gunman open fired Friday at Los Angeles International Airport. Their live tweets represented some of the first reporting from the scene. Held separately by law enforcement in two different areas of LAX, Entertainment Weekly spoke to each by phone while they were huddled with other travelers waiting to be released. The Discovery Channel co-stars were on their way to Science Channel’s annual “Pumpkin Chunkin” event in Delaware when the shooting took place.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you doing at this point and where are you?
TORY BELLECI: I’m a little shaken up. We’re held up in a neighboring terminal. They’re keeping us here. They’re asking for eyewitnesses to talk to the police. They won’t let us out until everything is secured.
What was the very first thing that happened when you knew something was wrong?
BELLECI: We were sitting at Gate 33, right around corner of gate 36. All of a sudden we heard gunshot. We were trapped at Gate 33. The doors were locked. Everybody was freaking out. People were running, hiding, jumping over other people. It was complete panic. Somebody finally opened up the door [to outside] and everybody jammed out the door onto the tarmac and everybody took cover.
From your experiences on the show, you presumably recognized that you were hearing gunshots pretty quickly.
BELLECI: The last thing you expect to hear in an airport is a gunshot. It was like, “Oh my God, there’s a shooter!”
So at Gate 33 there was basically no where to run?
BELLECI: Yes. Everybody was running from where he was to where we were. We were trapped, there was no where to go.
You said people freaked out. What were some of the reactions you saw?
BELLECI: It was like my worst nightmare. You hear about these situations on the news, but to actually see it – to see people running, leaving stuff behind, crawling over each other, crying. You always wonder how you’ll respond. There was this one woman who was bawling on the tarmac, she was separated from her mom who was in a wheelchair and we tried to calm her down.
How long was it from the time the shooting started until they opened the doors?
BELLECI: It probably was a lot shorter than it felt. It felt like an eternity, but was probably just matter of minutes.
How long were you on the tarmac?
BELLECI: We stayed out on tarmac for like 10 minutes before the shuttle buses came. Now we’ve been in the holding area the last four hours. It sounds like they’re letting us out now.
Anything else about what happened you can tell us?
BELLECI: I’m just trying to figure out how he was able to get that weapon that far into the airport. That’s what boggles my mind. You spend so much time going through security. It boggles the mind that somebody could get a rifle through the airport. And also, my thoughts and prayers are with the people affected by this whole incident.
Grant, are you with Tory right now?
GRANT IMAHARA:No I was upstairs in the Virgin Lounge when this all happened. So I didn’t really see anything. I was waiting for my flight which was delayed, sitting there listening to music. Then bunch of people started getting up and going to the window. I saw people streaming down the jet bridge and streaming out from other places. Then I saw like half a dozen uniformed TSA people running down the tarmac and there were police everywhere. Shortly after that I heard multiple shots fired from what sounded like was inside the terminal. So, wow.
What happened next?
IMAHARA: At that point they locked up the Virgin Lounge. We didn’t really know what happened. About 10 minutes later officers – either LAPD or airport police – carrying automatic weapons came in, saying everybody get out your IDs. Another 15-20 minutes they said everybody has to get out. They took us down the back stairs, down toward the area where everything happened. There were seas of police officers around. I’m fairly certainly i saw what the weapon was on the ground.
An isolated weapon on the ground? What kind of weapon?
IMAHARA: It appeared to be a rifle. They were standing around it. It might have been nothing, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. I tweeted a picture of it [below]. They moved us in groups with armed officers all around us. There’s a large FBI and Homeland presence and I’ve seen uniforms from every local police force – Newport, Hermosa, Hawthorne, Torrance – everybody’s here.
Were you in communication with Tory during all this?
IMAHARA No. We were just reading each others’ tweets. I wasn’t in direct contact. A lot of people saying we were beating the local news. One of the creepiest things was how quiet the airport was. It was like the whole airport held its breath for what seemed like an hour. Then it seemed to exhale. They had us go through a security line. It was the most orderly security line ever.