Former Navy SEAL Caught in JFK Airport Panic: 'They Don't Have a Good Plan' - NBC New York
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Former Navy SEAL Caught in JFK Airport Panic: 'They Don't Have a Good Plan'

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    Questions continue to mount after a false report of an active shooter led to mass panic and confusion at one of the nation's busiest airport last week. A former Navy SEAL says it appears authorities didn't have a good plan. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016)

    Questions continue to mount after a false report of an active shooter led to mass panic and confusion at one of the nation's busiest airport last week.

    Local, state and federal officials are reviewing the response to reports of an active shooter at Kennedy Airport's Terminal 8 and Terminal 1 the night of Aug. 14.

    Plenty of passengers documented the harrowing experience, including former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb. Webb had just landed at Terminal 1 and gone through customs when half a dozen officers burst in, telling passengers to "run for their lives." 

    "They were screaming at people," said Webb. "They said there was an active shooter, run for your lives, shots fired."

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    Webb recalled the panic that took over the crowd of about 400 people.

    "Everyone stormed over the barricades and out onto the tarmac," he said. "Kids were getting trampled, adults were getting separated from their kids."

    Webb continued, "It dawned on me they don't have a good plan for dealing with passengers."

    New York magazine editor David Wallace Wells concluded as much after the chaotic evacuation.

    "I was at the airport for five hours and I didn't have a single encounter with a cop telling me where I should go, or whether or not I should be worried or reassured," he said.

    But Kenneth Honig of Critical Incident Management and Training, Inc., has a different view. A former top Port Authority cop who was a commanding officer at JFK, Honig says at least part of the police response was perfect.

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    "You have seconds. You give direct orders. This is not a situation where the officers are going to be polite," Honig said. "They’re going to bark orders. They’re going to be very demanding. 'Get down. Show me your hands.'”

    "I think they responded in the way that they were trained," he added. "They responded effectively. They responded quickly.”

    Amid the chaos, Wallace Wells and other witnesses saw TSA agents flee along with frightened passengers. According to a TSA spokeswoman, they acted within protocol.

    "Remember, they don't carry guns. They are not officers. They have a right to find protection," said TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

    The I-Team first reported last week that Port Authority police did not have access to live camera feeds at Terminal 8 or any of the terminals at area airports -- an issue the Port Authority police union has raised previously in letters to officials. Police also had no ability to use the public speaker system at the airport to relay important information to passengers.

    U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has demanded a federal investigation into the response at the airport. He spoke exclusively with the I-Team about Homeland Security's findings so far.

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    "They admit that it was one huge mess," Schumer said. "They admit that things need change and they’re going to get back to us with specifics."

    When told of former Port Authority officer Honig's assessment that police did everything by the book, Schumer responded, "Well, let me say, if this went exactly by the book, they better change the book."

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