OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Southwest Airlines employee was shot outside Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport on Tuesday and died after police closed the sprawling complex to search for his killer.
Oklahoma City police identified the victim as Michael Winchester, 52, a former University of Oklahoma football player whose son James is a player for the Kansas City Chiefs. A hometown wasn’t listed. The airline said it was helping police officers with their investigation. Police have not detained a suspect.
“It is with great sorrow that Southwest Airlines confirms that a Southwest Employee who was injured during a shooting incident today at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City has died from injuries,” the airline said in a statement. It said it would cancel flights out of the city for the remainder of the day even if the rest of the terminal reopens.
Hundreds of people were stranded inside the terminal for more than three hours before officers began letting them leave slowly. Police have not detained a suspect.
“Investigators have several leads of a possible suspect,” Oklahoma City Police Capt. Paco Balderrama said.
Police and airport officials closed the complex about 1 p.m., diverting incoming flights and preventing those ready for takeoff from leaving. The airport handles between 7,000 and 8,000 passengers daily for Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United airlines and has a separate terminal that serves as a transfer center for federal inmates. A jet carrying inmates to the transfer site was allowed to land while the rest of the airport was shuttered.
Video from a television station helicopter showed what appeared to be a pool of blood about 100 feet from the airport’s employee parking area — and about 100 yards from the airport’s ticket counters and departure area. Two ambulances and a firetruck stood by.
Balderrama initially said police had received reports of a possible second victim, but no one had been located by late afternoon. No other details of the shooting were immediately available.
After the airport suspended operations, maps posted at the airport tracking website FlightAware showed that one plane was diverted to the Wiley Post Airport in the northwestern part of the city while two commercial flights from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport were directed to Tulsa, about 100 miles away.
“There are going to be some delays for flights until we have further information,” airport spokeswoman Karen Carney said. She referred other questions to police.
All streets were blocked off surrounding the airport. As people left the terminal area, police checked their IDs and their vehicles.
Carney said that police believe the shooting was an isolated incident, but that precautionary measures were still appropriate.
Michael Winchester was a punter on the University of Oklahoma’s 1985 national championship team.
“Our hearts are truly heavy for the entire Winchester Family. Mike was a former Sooner student athlete as was his son James/daughter Carolyn,” the school’s athletic director, Joe Castiglione, tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
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