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A lone gunman walked into one of the nation’s busiest airports Friday in Los Angeles and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing at least one transportation security officer and wounding another, police and TSA officials say.
Authorities have identified the shooting suspect as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, originally of New Jersey. Officials did not immediately provide a motive for the assault.
The attack left at least seven people needing medical treatment (including the shooter), officials said, and forced the evacuation of a terminal and delays of flights coming into and out of the airport. At least one of the injured is listed in critical condition, a hospital official said.
The gunman, officials said, was taken into custody after exchanging fire with airport police. LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon said the assailant “pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and opened fire in the terminal.”
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the situation could have been much worse, reports NPR’s Newcast.
“The fact that these officers were able to neutralize the threat as they did,” Garcetti said. “There were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal.”
As happens when stories such as this are developing, there was a considerable amount of conflicting information in the early hours. We’re focusing on authorities who should have direct knowledge of the situation and news outlets with reporters who are at the scene or have trusted sources. Hit your “refresh” button to be sure you’re seeing our latest updates.
The TSA has been identified the slain officer as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. A second agent was shot, but has not been identified.
Officials provided no other details about Hernandez.
Update at 8:20 p.m. ET: Suspect Chased In Exchange Of Gunfire:
NPR’s Kirk Siegler tells All Things Considered that the gunman “would have had to get through the security area while firing this [assault] rifle.”
“[Then] down a relatively long hallway and the gate area where there are restaurants and of course people waiting to board,” he said. “We are told that this entire time, he was being chased by airport police in an exchange of gunfire. At one point an airport police officer was hit, as was the suspect. They did manage then to bring him into custody.”
Update at 7:10 p.m. ET. FBI: One Wounded Is TSA Officer:
Special Agent in Charge David Bowdich, of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, confirmed the identity and age of the suspect and said that he was originally from New Jersey. Bowdich said one of the wounded is a TSA officer. He said others appeared to have “evasion injuries” from trying to escape the shooter.
Update at 6:30 p.m. ET. Alleged Gunman Identified:
NPR has confirmed the identity of the shooting suspect as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia.
NPR’s Kirk Siegler spoke with Stacy McLennan, who was waiting in line at the Air Canada check-in counter when the shots rang out.
“I was at ticketing and one of the TSA agents turned around and said so and so had been shot and we turned around and it was a really young kid, TSA agent, and he had blood coming out of his abdomen and there was blood coming out from his hand,” McLennan said. “We all were just standing there and didn’t know what to do, and the next thing we knew, they said ‘run, run,’ and so we all just took off running.”
Update at 5:10 p.m. ET. Witness: ‘We Just Hit The Deck’:
Xavier Savant, who witnessed the shooting, tells The Associated Press that he was waiting in a security line when he heard a “bam, bam, bam” burst of gunfire. He and others “just hit the deck. Everybody in the line hit the floor and shots just continued,” Savant said.
He said the shots subsided and people bolted through past the scanners and made their way to the tarmac.
Update at 4:00 p.m. ET. TSA: ‘Multiple’ Officers Shot, One Dead; Shooter Not TSA Worker:
This statement from a TSA official: “Earlier this morning, a shooting occurred at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport. Multiple Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) were shot, one fatally. Additional details will be addressed by the FBI and local law enforcement who are investigating the shooting.”
Separately, NPR has been told by the LA Coroner’s Office that a 40-year-old male is dead, but no further information was available.
A spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents TSA workers, says: “We have received first-hand confirmation from a reliable source that the shooter was not a TSO.”
Meanwhile, UCLA Medical Center Director Dr. Lynne McCullough told reporters that the hospital is treating three adult male patients from the airport shooting — one is in critical condition; two are listed as fair.
Update at 3:05 p.m. ET. No Confirmation Of Deaths:
While several local news outlets are reporting they’ve been told that there have been one or two fatalities, airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon just told reporters he does not know that to be true.
Update at 3 p.m. ET. ‘Lone Shooter,’ 7 People Treated For Injuries:
“We believe at this point that there was a lone shooter,” airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon just told reporters. He said the gunman “came into Terminal 3 … pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in the terminal.”
Gannon said the gunman moved around the terminal, including into the security checkpoint area, before he was “engaged in gunfire” by airport police who were able “to successfully take him into custody.”
“We have multiple victims that have been shot and have been transported” to hospitals, along with the gunman, Gannon said.
A fire department official followed Gannon to the microphones and said seven people have been treated for injuries (presumably including the shooter), with six taken to hospitals.
Update at 2:25 p.m. ET. No Flights To LAX:
Not surprisingly, the FAA says that flights to the airport are being held at their points of origin, NBC Los Angeles reports.
Update at 2:20 p.m. ET. Obviously, Avoid The Area:
“All exits to LAX from the 105 and 405 freeways are now closed or in the process of closing,” airport officials tweet. “Avoid area.”
Update at 2:10 p.m. ET. Officials Urge Caution On Reports:
“There will be a Press Conference at 11:30am [2:30 p.m ET],” the Los Angeles police department says on its Twitter page. “Pls wait for the verified info as there are many versions of what happened.”
Update at 1:57 p.m. ET. ‘Multiple Victims’; Suspect In Custody:
“Suspect is now in custody. Multiple victims. Press conference at 11:30 am at Sepulveda Blvd/Century Blvd w/ Airport Police & LAPD Chiefs,” reads a statement on the airport’s official Twitter page.
Update at 1:55 p.m. ET. ‘Gunshots, Gunshots, Everybody Run’:
Laura Gomez, who works at a Starbucks in Terminal 3, tells NPR’s Sam Sanders that she heard the “pops” of gunshots and that a co-worker then ran into the shop yelling “gunshots, gunshots, everybody run!”
Update at 1:45 p.m. ET. Police Spokesman Says Authorities Believe Shooter Is ‘In Custody’:
It’s his understanding that the the shooter is “in custody” and that there are “two, possibly three victims,” a Los Angeles police spokesman just told NBC Los Angeles.
Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. At Least Three People Injured, NBC Says:
Along with a TSA employee, at least two other people were wounded, officials tell NBC Los Angeles.
Update at 1:20 p.m. ET. ‘Fear Unlike Anything I’ve Ever Experienced’:
Bill Reiter, a Fox Sports columnist, has been tweeting from the scene.
Among his posts:
– “When gunfire broke out there was a stampede people, all of us hiding under seats we didn’t fit under, we burst through the door to outside.”
– “That is a kind of fear unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. In those moments, it’s true, you think about your kids and your your wife.”
Update at 1:11 p.m. ET. ‘Situation Has Ended’:
NBC Los Angeles says it is being told by officials that “the situation has ended.” But, obviously, that doesn’t mean things are back to normal at the airport. The FAA says planes are being held on the ground after landing.
Update at 1 p.m. ET. At Terminal 3:
“Airport officials confirm police incident began at 9:30 a.m. @ Terminal 3 at LAX. More info to come,” the airport says. According to the airport’s website, the airlines using that terminal are AirTran, Alaska, Horizon, JetBlue, Spirit, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic.
Our original post:
The airport’s Twitter page has this notice:
“There is an incident underway at LAX. Law enforcement is on scene. More information to follow.”
Los Angeles police say they are on “tactical alert” in the city’s West Bureau.
At least some parts of the airport have been evacuated.
We’ll keep an eye on the news and update.