TSA agent killed in Los Angeles airport shooting

The BBC's Emily Thomas: "Shocked travellers dropped to the ground"

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A federal security agent has been killed and several other people wounded in a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, officials say.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said three of its staff had been injured, one fatally.

The suspect - named by the FBI as 23-year-old Los Angeles resident Paul Anthony Ciancia - was wounded by police and detained.

Hundreds of flights nationwide were affected by the incident.

Paul Anthony Ciancia (FBI photo) Paul Ciancia was reportedly carrying a note that expressed anti-government views

LA Airport police chief Patrick Gannon told reporters a "lone shooter" came into Terminal 3 at 9:20 local time (16:20 GMT).

The suspect "pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in the terminal" inside the nation's third largest airport, he said.

He then allegedly went to a security screening area and continued shooting.

"As you can imagine, a large amount of chaos took place in this entire incident," Mr Gannon said.

It was the first time a TSA officer was killed in the line of duty, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

'Suicide text'

The TSA named the killed officer as 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez.

Eyewitness

Vernon Cardenas, 45, of Los Angeles

"All of the sudden we saw people running towards us. Our terminal was a dead-end terminal and there was only an emergency door but no-one had opened the door yet.

We started hearing some shots. Then someone kicked open the emergency door and everybody started running down into the tarmac, down below the planes. Pretty crazy. Some people got injured, as you had between 100 and 200 people trying to squeeze through the small door.

I went close to the exit but I didn't quite leave, just to keep an eye on my stuff. At that point there were just a couple of us in the terminal and that is when we saw the gunman walking towards us. He was acting confused. Taking his time. He looked towards us. As soon as he looked our way, we all ran outside."

Mayor Garcetti said it was fortunate that the authorities had tackled the suspect because he had been armed with more than 100 rounds of ammunition.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that Mr Ciancia was shot in the mouth and leg by two airport police officers.

According to US media, the alleged gunman approached potential victims asking if they worked for the TSA, and spared them if they said no.

He pushed through screening gates and walked more than 100 yards (90m) into the secure area of the terminal, Mr Gannon said, where law enforcement officers caught up with him in a food court.

As he began firing in the terminal, "everybody pancaked down on the ground", passenger Lauren Stephens, who was checking in at the time, told Reuters news agency.

Then, when more shots rang out, "I just left my bag and I just ran like hell. Everybody ran. People were falling. People were just trying to help each other out."

In this photo provided to AP, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, police officers stand near an unidentified weapon in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles International Airport on 1 November 2013 A photo from the scene of the incident showed police officers standing near an unidentified weapon.
Police escort a man in a wheelchair toward medical help during an incident in which shots were fired at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles in this still image taken from video provided by KNBC November 1, 2013. Outside, video footage showed a man in a wheelchair been taken to receive medical help.
Transportation Security Administration employees hug outside Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport on 1 November 2013 TSA employees comforted each other outside Terminal 1
Passengers are directed outside Terminal 2 at Los Angeles International Airport on 1 November 2013, after shots were fired prompting authorities to evacuate a terminal and stop flights headed for the city from taking off from other airports. There were chaotic scenes as the terminal was hurriedly closed.
Departing passengers wait to enter the airport following a shooting incident earlier in the day which left one dead and others wounded, at Los Angeles International Airport, 1 November 2013 in Los Angeles, California Nearly 750 flights were disrupted by the attack
Cars are backed up over a mile as air traffic begins after a shooting at Terminal 3 caused a shutdown at Los Angeles International Airport, on 1 November 2013, in Los Angeles The airport closure left traffic backing up on roads around the airport

Another witness, Leon Saryan, told CNN that the same man he had just seen shoot a TSA officer "calmly" walked toward him and asked, "TSA?"

TSA: An unloved agency

  • Part of US Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration was created after 9/11 to beef up airport security
  • But critics say the 50,000-strong agency is ineffectual and even unconstitutional
  • Its introduction of full-body scanners and pat-downs at airports in 2010 was seen by many as highly intrusive
  • The TSA has received thousands of complaints about discourtesy, delays at checkpoints and damage to luggage during screening

"I just shook my head, and he kept going," Mr Saryan said.

A number of people were reportedly injured while fleeing the scene.

Various outlets reported the suspect was carrying a note that expressed anti-government views.

Little is known about him.

Mr Ciancia's family in New Jersey told police on Friday they had received a text message from him saying he planned suicide, report US media.

"Their younger child got a text message from Paul [Ciancia] stating that there were some comments in there about his wellbeing and he wanted to possibly take his own life," a New Jersey police chief, Allen Cummings, said.

Mr Cummings said he called Los Angeles police, who sent officers to Mr Ciancia's apartment in the city.

Two roommates of Mr Ciancia told Los Angeles police on Friday they had seen him the day before and he had appeared fine, according to Mr Cummings.

A local hospital official told reporters that one of the injured was listed in a critical condition, while two other victims were in fair condition.

Some 746 flights nationwide were affected and 46 were diverted because of the incident, said airport officials.

Terminal 3 remains closed as the investigation continues.

President Barack Obama expressed concern about the shooting, but said he would leave law enforcement to talk about it.

Nathan Sunshine: "There was a sense of panic and people were scared"

A map of Los Angeles, California with the Los Angeles International Airport marked

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