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Bluegrass Singer Witnessed LAX Shooting

Digger Cleverly
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

When a gunman opened fire in the Los Angeles airport last Friday (Nov. 1), killing a TSA agent and terrorizing thousands of travelers, the nation was riveted to the news for coverage of the tragic event. But one of country music’s own, Paul Harris, lead singer of bluegrass band the Cleverlys, was in the airport and witnessed the incident first-hand.

Harris tells Country Weekly he had just taken off his shoes and put his things onto the conveyor belt when the first shots rang out. Harris, who goes by the name Digger Cleverly in the comedic family band, was trying to get to his home on the Missouri/Arkansas border when he first heard the gunfire.

“Everyone hit the ground and was trying to take cover,” he recalls. “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.”

Harris credits a stranger with saving his, and countless other lives. “Someone got one of the emergency exits opened and, as I turned, I saw the gunman coming up the terminal,” the singer continues. “We ran out the door onto the tarmac.”

Still, the singer says he still didn’t feel safe, even after his escape. He was barefoot, had no belt, and had left all of his carry-on items in the screening area, including his phone.

Harris was picked up on a bus, along with the others who ran onto the tarmac, and taken to the international terminal, where they were interviewed by Homeland Security and the FBI before being released. But it’s a trip Harris will not likely forget.

“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,” he says.

“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,” Harris concludes. “I ran my ass off.”

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