Shooting reported at LA airport
LOS ANGELES, United States (5th UPDATE) – A shooting incident took place at Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California on Friday, November 1, prompting the evacuation of people in the airport.
The gunman, identified as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, opened fire inside the airport at around 9:20 am, according to the LAX police. The shooting resulted in the death of one security agent while 7 others were injured.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which employs screeners and guards at airports, confirmed one of its employees had died.
"Multiple Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) were shot, one fatally," said a TSA statement emailed to Agence France-Presse.
Of the 7 people injured, 6 were taken to hospital, said the head of the LA Fire Department James Featherstone, briefing reporters for the first time a couple of hours after the incident.
In an 11:40 am press conference, airport police said that the suspect acted alone. "We believe at this point that there was a lone shooter," said Patrick Gannon, head of the LAX police force, saying he "was the only person who was armed in this incident."
Gannon said the gunman "came into Terminal 3, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag, and began to open fire in the terminal."
"He proceeded up into the screening area, where TSA screeners are, and continued shooting, and went past the screeners back into the airport itself," added Gannon.
Airport police immediately responded to the incident and engaged the suspect in gunfire. He was shot and later put in the custody of the LA Police Department (LAPD).
"We have multiple victims that have been shot, and have been transported. And we've had some other injuries as well, in addition to the suspect himself," said Gannon.
The motive for the shooting was unclear, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it could not rule out terrorism. The gunman was reported to be in critical condition in hospital.
The FBI said the shooter was a LA resident but gave no further details.
Citing sources, the The Los Angeles Times said the shooter is believed to be a TSA employee at the airport. Meanwhile, an NBC television report suggested he may have had some link to the TSA, and targeted TSA agents as his victims.
In a later update, the LA Times, quoting a federal law enforcement official, said the shooter was a "ticketed passenger" entering the airport.
'Like it was straight out of the movies'
A witness said that the suspect was a young, white male carrying a rifle-type gun.
One eyewitness recounted the shooter dressed in greyish-green clothing with an assault rifle opening fire as he went up an escalator and through the security area.
Live television footage showed armed police on the top of parking structures, apparently still looking for a possible gunman, while multiple ambulances were parked outside a terminal building.
Flights were disrupted as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a national ground-stop, or hold, for all LA-bound flights that had not yet departed from their originating airports.
Eyewitness Brian Adamick, 43, said he was preparing to board a flight when he saw people running through the terminal, away from a security area. He and others responded by going through an emergency exit onto the tarmac.
A short time later shuttle buses began helping passengers to leave and he saw a wounded airport worker, from the TSA, board one bus, with a bloodied ankle.
"It looked like it was straight out of the movies," said Adamick.
Eyewitness Eric Williams described the gunman to ABC7 television.
"We were standing in the TSA line to get checked through and all of a sudden we heard a shotgun. I saw the shooter and he was a Caucasian probably 18 to 25 years old," he said.
Although there was no indication of other people being involved in the attack, the FBI said it could not rule out terrorism.
"It would be premature to comment on a motivation at this time and joint investigators have neither ruled out terrorism, nor ruled it in," it said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama was kept up to date on the shooting. "Obviously, we've been monitoring it and we're concerned about it," Obama said. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
This is a developing story. Please refresh your page for updates.