Bluegrass Star Witnesses LAX Shooting Rampage
“Everyone hit the ground and was trying to take cover,” says Paul Harris.
When a gunman opened fire last Friday at Los Angeles International Airport, killing a TSA agent, a member of the Nashville community was nearby: Paul Harris, leader of the bluegrass act The Cleverlys.
Harris—who goes by the stage name Digger Cleverly in the humorous family band—was traveling back to his home on the Missouri/Arkansas border and was just steps away from suspect Paul Ciancia when the shooter entered the screening area.
“I got to the point where I had to take off my shoes and put everything on the conveyor when the first shots rang out,” Harris tells Country Weekly.
“Everyone hit the ground and was trying to take cover. There was a couple other shots, and seconds later, he was firing upon the crowd I was in. When that happened, one of the officers said, ‘Run, run, run!’ and everybody got up and started scrambling into the terminal toward the gates,” he continues. “Someone got one of the emergency exits opened and, as I turned, I saw the gunman coming up the terminal. We ran out the door onto the tarmac.”
Disoriented, Harris says he and his fellow passengers were left vulnerable while hiding on the runway. “I’m barefooted, my belt was off, everything I had was in the screening area. All my carry-on things, including my phone,” he says.
Eventually a bus picked up those fleeing and spirited them away to the international terminal, where, after the gunman was subdued, they were interviewed by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
“It all happened so fast, and there were quite a few shots, so you didn’t know if there were more than one [shooter]. While that’s going down, you’re thinking the airport is being taken over. There are tons of things going through your mind,” says Harris, who praises the quick response of LAX security, and admits his survival instinct kicked in when the mayhem began.
“You always speculate how you would handle yourself in a situation like that, and I can tell you this, I didn’t handle myself anyway near the way I’d always speculated,” he says. “I ran my ass off.”