By Dan Whitcomb and Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES, Nov 1 (Reuters) - A lone gunman stormed into acrowded terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport andopened fire with an assault weapon on Friday, killing a securityagent and wounding six other people before he was shot andcaptured, authorities said.
The gunfire in Terminal 3 touched off panic and chaos at oneof the world's busiest airports as passengers fled or dove forcover behind racks of luggage as police shouted warnings totravelers and quickly evacuated the terminal.
Departing flights were halted and arriving planes werediverted to other airports, as streets surrounding the airportwere shut down, snarling traffic for miles around.
"An individual came into Terminal 3 of this airport, pulledan assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in theterminal," Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles AirportPolice, 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 courtarea, where law enforcement officers tracked him down, shot himat least once and took him into custody. His condition was notimmediately clear.
"The suspect got back very far into a terminal. There is aBurger King that is quite a ways away from the screening stationand he was able to get back there," Gannon said.
An FBI spokeswoman identified the suspect as 23-year-oldPaul Anthony Ciancia, a resident of the Los Angeles area.Several news organizations reported that Ciancia also has tiesto New Jersey, and that police there were serving a searchwarrant at his childhood home in Pennsville.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which runssecurity screenings at U.S. airports, said that multiple agentshad been shot, one fatally. The agency did not identify theslain agent, who was the first TSA officer to be killed in theline of duty.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said it washandling one person who was killed in the shooting, a manapproximately 40 years old who was not identified by name. Itwas not immediately clear if that person was the TSA agent.
Two U.S. officials, who asked to remain anonymous, toldReuters that federal investigators were looking into whether thegunman had targeted TSA agents during the rampage.
'PEOPLE STARTED RUNNING'
Jose Mares, who was catching a flight back to his home inNorman, Oklahoma, with his wife, told Reuters he was about 20 to30 yards (18 to 27 meters) away from a man with a gun on thesecond 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 luggageand that's when I stacked luggage like two high and then made arow of luggage," he said. "I was in the corner and I'm lookingat the guy just shooting randomly, like I saw a TSA (agent) godown."
Mares said when the shooter looked and pointed in hisdirection and appeared headed toward them, he told his wife:"Once I say three you better run. Once I had the opportunity ashe 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 thathe was in an area inside the airport past a security checkpointwhen he heard loud noises and screaming and saw people runningin a scene that amounted to mayhem.
"We were at the food court and all of a sudden I hear a bigcommotion and people started running. People were running andpeople (were) getting knocked down," Neumann said, adding thathe heard screams. "Mayhem is the best way of describing it."
A Los Angeles fire department spokesman said seven peoplewere wounded in the shooting and that six of them had been takento hospitals.
Television images showed at least one person being loadedinto one of several ambulances at the scene, and passengers wereseen being evacuated from the area.
Three male victims hurt in the incident were taken to RonaldReagan UCLA Medical Center, where one was listed in criticalcondition and two others in fair condition, said Mark Wheeler, aspokesman for the hospital. The condition of the other victimsor the gunman was not immediately clear.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident and WhiteHouse officials are in touch with law enforcement officials onthe ground, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
"We're concerned about it, but I'll let law enforcementfolks talk about it directly," Obama told reporters in the OvalOffice after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Los Angeles International Airport is the world's sixthbusiest, handling over 63 million passengers in 2012, accordingto its official website.
- Crime & Justice
- Society & Culture
- Los Angeles