Screaming gunman sparks terror at Orlando Airport

No one was hurt and no shots fired, but the stand-off caused confusion and anxiety among travellers at the Florida airport
No one was hurt and no shots fired, but the stand-off caused confusion and anxiety among travellers at the Florida airport

A former US Marine armed with a fake gun attempted "suicide by cop" during a nearly three-hour stand-off at Orlando International Airport, police have said.

No one was hurt and no shots fired, but the stand-off caused confusion and anxiety among travellers at the Florida airport who were uncertain about what was going on.

Part of the airport was evacuated as hundreds of police stormed the area, some with guns drawn.

Michael Pettigrew, 26, was in "mental distress" when police surrounded him at the rental car area of the airport, authorities said.

He pointed what looked like a real gun at officers and himself.

"Our negotiators did a phenomenal job of talking with the subject for about two hours and finally got him to peacefully surrender," Orlando police chief John Mina said.

Pettigrew is being held for a mental evaluation and faces aggravated assault charges.

Glorializ Colon Plaza, 20, told the Orlando Sentinel she was just leaving work with Virgin Atlantic airlines when she saw everyone hiding.

She saw the man on the floor near the rental car area, screaming and surrounded by police.

"I couldn't make out the words, but he was screaming really loud," she said.

"Everyone there told me right before this happened a man said to everyone, 'You're going to need mental therapy after this', then he pulled out a gun and everyone ran.

"I saw all the cops with the long rifles and started shaking. It didn't seem real."

Earlier this year an Alaska man killed five people inside a baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The incident at the Orlando airport was first reported at about 7.24pm on Tuesday.

Terminal A was eventually closed, but the other side of the airport, Terminal B, remained open during the stand-off.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority chairman Frank Kruppenbacher praised the response of both police and airport employees.

"Our employees did everything in accordance with what OPD has trained them to do," he said.

"You couldn't have a better resolution. No one was hurt. The airport continued to operate on the other side."

Some flights were delayed during the incident, but airport operations returned to normal late on Tuesday night.

Images posted on social media showed a heavy police presence in the area and passengers were worried about their safety and missing flights.

At one point, the Florida Highway Patrol tweeted that all roads to the airport were shut down, with "zero exceptions".

Orlando police later said the entrances were open but congested.

AP