In the Media

San Fernando Valley teen helped mom to safety in LAX shooting spree

Los Angeles Daily News by Brenda Gazzar
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Luke was a student of Bob Fisher’s.

Even the sound of gunshots in a crowded airport couldn’t convince Robyn Love to take cover or run — certainly not when her laptop was still going through security.

But her son’s love and determination did.

Love, 55, a north San Fernando Valley resident and her son Luke, 15, were going through Los Angeles International’s Terminal 3 on Nov. 1 when a gunman opened fire nearby, killing TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez and injuring several others.

Looking back on the incident now, Robyn credits her son’s quick thinking and maturity for not only forcing her to get to the ground and getting her to safety, but helping other travelers as well.

“He’s my hero, absolutely,” she said. “I would still be waiting there for my laptop because I did not want to lose it because of all my data on it. He realized that my life was more important … and he got me to safety.”

Luke, a freshman at Crespi Carmelite High School, will also be recognized next week as the KNX 1070 Newsradio “Hero of the Week,” according to the station.

An FBI spokeswoman noted there were a number of heroic bystanders that day.

“In addition to law enforcement, there were obviously a lot of people who stepped up, members of the traveling public who stepped up and their actions were heroic in and of itself,” said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. “I can’t comment on specific witness accounts because this is obviously a pending case with a potential trial ahead of us.”

Robyn and Luke were preparing to travel to Kansas so he could attend a basketball camp when shots rang out in the terminal as they were going through the security checkpoint.

Robyn was waiting for her laptop to come through the conveyor belt, while Luke was putting his shoes on the belt when they heard shots. Someone yelled “gun,” he crouched down and ran through the metal detector and pulled his mother — “who was probably the only person still standing waiting for our stuff to get out of X-ray” — down to the ground, he said.

TSA agents told them to run. When he was past the security checkpoint, Luke said he looked back and saw a man about 50 feet away walking very slowly up the stairs with an assault rifle across his body.

Still shoeless, Luke ran even further and realized his mother, who has a weak knee, had fallen behind and that a woman had fallen in front of her. He went back, grabbed his mother, and pushed her ahead, he said, when a door opened on their right hand side leading into a hallway and some offices. They found their way into one of the rooms with about eight other people and tried to lock the door. When it wouldn’t lock, Luke tried to barricade the door with his body and then started moving the copy machine with others to block the door.

“I told everyone, ‘don’t open the door for anyone.’ I told everyone to silence their cellphones and for one person to call 9-1-1,” he recalled. “I was comforting my mom and texting my friends at the same time. I didn’t know if I was going to make it out or not.”

They heard several more gunshots and after about 15 minutes, there was a knock on the door from someone who said they had caught the shooter and that they were evacuating the terminal. The people in the room looked to Luke wondering if they should open the door, he said, and he said it was fine.

The other travelers were perhaps more willing to listen to him because Luke, who plays center for his high school JV basketball team, looks older than his 15 years.

“We were at Bradley (terminal) I think for 7 hours,” after the incident, his mother recalled. “The police officer interviewed him, and he said, ‘What’s your occupation sir?’ and he said, ‘I’m a kid. I’m only 15’.”

Ironically, about five or 10 minutes before the shooting started, a TSA agent, who they had not interacted with earlier that day, had called out to Luke by name, asking him in an energetic voice how he was doing and where they were going as they were heading upstairs. Luke responded but couldn’t place how or from where he knew the man. They realized later that it was Hernandez, the slain TSA officer. Luke is still not sure, he said, how Hernandez may have known him.

“He had a very happy voice, it was very energetic,” he said. “It wasn’t that he thought I was a terrorist or anything. He was smiling.”

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