By Dan Whitcomb and Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES Nov 1 A lone gunman stormed into a
crowded terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport and
opened fire with an assault weapon on Friday, killing a security
agent and wounding six other people before he was shot and
captured, authorities said.
The gunfire in Terminal 3 touched off panic and chaos at one
of the world's busiest airports as passengers fled or dove for
cover behind racks of luggage as police shouted warnings to
travelers and quickly evacuated the terminal.
Departing flights were halted and arriving planes were
diverted to other airports, as streets surrounding the airport
were shut down, snarling traffic for miles around.
"An individual came into Terminal 3 of this airport, pulled
an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in the
terminal," Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles Airport
Police, told a news conference.
Gannon said the gunman, who appeared to be acting alone,
made his way past the screening gates and into a food court
area, where law enforcement officers tracked him down, shot him
at least once and took him into custody. His condition was not
"The suspect got back very far into a terminal. There is a
Burger King that is quite a ways away from the screening station
and he was able to get back there," Gannon said.
An FBI spokeswoman identified the suspect as 23-year-old
Paul Anthony Ciancia, a resident of the Los Angeles area.
Several news organizations reported that Ciancia also has ties
to New Jersey, and that police there were serving a search
warrant at his childhood home in Pennsville.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which runs
security screenings at U.S. airports, said that multiple agents
had been shot, one fatally. The agency did not identify the
slain agent, who was the first TSA officer to be killed in the
line of duty.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said it was
handling one person who was killed in the shooting, a man
approximately 40 years old who was not identified by name. It
was not immediately clear if that person was the TSA agent.
Two U.S. officials, who asked to remain anonymous, told
Reuters that federal investigators were looking into whether the
gunman had targeted TSA agents during the rampage.
'PEOPLE STARTED RUNNING'
Jose Mares, who was catching a flight back to his home in
Norman, Oklahoma, with his wife, told Reuters he was about 20 to
30 yards (18 to 27 meters) away from a man with a gun on the
second level of Terminal 3 when the man opened fire.
Mares, 31, said he used his own body to shield his wife
from the bullets.
"As I'm getting on top of her I'm reaching for more luggage
and that's when I stacked luggage like two high and then made a
row of luggage," he said. "I was in the corner and I'm looking
at the guy just shooting randomly, like I saw a TSA (agent) go
Mares said when the shooter looked and pointed in his
direction and appeared headed toward them, he told his wife:
"Once I say three you better run. Once I had the opportunity as
he is looking down the escalator, that's when I told her 'OK,
let's go. Let's run.'"
Witness Alex Neumann, meanwhile, told cable network CNN that
he was in an area inside the airport past a security checkpoint
when he heard loud noises and screaming and saw people running
in a scene that amounted to mayhem.
"We were at the food court and all of a sudden I hear a big
commotion and people started running. People were running and
people (were) getting knocked down," Neumann said, adding that
he heard screams. "Mayhem is the best way of describing it."
A Los Angeles fire department spokesman said seven people
were wounded in the shooting and that six of them had been taken
Television images showed at least one person being loaded
into one of several ambulances at the scene, and passengers were
seen being evacuated from the area.
Three male victims hurt in the incident were taken to Ronald
Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where one was listed in critical
condition and two others in fair condition, said Mark Wheeler, a
spokesman for the hospital. The condition of the other victims
or the gunman was not immediately clear.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident and White
House officials are in touch with law enforcement officials on
the ground, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
"We're concerned about it, but I'll let law enforcement
folks talk about it directly," Obama told reporters in the Oval
Office after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Los Angeles International Airport is the world's sixth
busiest, handling over 63 million passengers in 2012, according
to its official website.