A Transportation Security Administration agent was killed and several other people were wounded when a gunman opened fire in a Los Angeles International Airport terminal Friday morning.
[As Reported by the Los Angeles Times] see video
3:43 p.m. LAX officials said in a Twitter message just before 3 p.m. that while Terminal 3 remains closed, they are preparing to re-open Terminals 1 and 2. Airport employees and concessionaires are being allowed to enter first.
A “ground stop” of airplanes is expected to be in place until at least 4 p.m.
3:13 p.m. Months before Friday’s shooting at LAX, officials removed armed police officers from their permanent assignments protecting TSA checkpoints, one veteran airport police officer told The Times.
Those officers were moved roving patrols in the passenger terminals, said Marshall McClain, an airport police officer and president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn.
LAPD officers and Los Angeles airport police were first assigned to the checkpoints after the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
After the attacks, LAX , the nation’s third-busiest airport, was designated as a top potential target for terrorists.
McClain said officials at the time were concerned that armed terrorists could easily breach the checkpoints and make their way to the passenger gates and parked aircraft.
LAX officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But in the past, they have added more police across the airport and increased security measures.
McClain said he did not want to speculate why the officers were removed from the checkpoints. He added, however, that the association has been concerned about staffing levels at LAX.
Although roving patrols were started at the beginning of the year, McClain said officers tried to have a response time of two minutes to reach areas of the terminals they were assigned to.
McClain said armed police officers were in Terminal 3 when Friday’s shooting began but not at the TSA checkpoint where the gunman forced his way through.
Though an officer might have helped, he declined to say whether the immediate presence of law enforcement might have made a difference. There are too many variables and what-ifs, he added.
McClain said airport police chased the suspect through the terminal and shot him near the restaurant area of near the passenger gates.
“Our officers performed valiantly,” McClain said. “They were tested and performed as they were trained.”
MClain said the suspect was armed with an AR-15, an assault style rifle that was concealed in a bag as he walked through the ticketing area.
2:25 p.m.: A federal law enforcement official confirmed that police have identified the suspect who allegedly opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning as Paul Ciancia.
The official could not confirm Ciancia’s age. The official said police were looking at information that Ciancia “wasn’t a fan of the TSA.”
Authorities believe that Ciancia arrived at a TSA screening area in Terminal 3 at 9:20 a.m., pulled a rifle out of his bag and started shooting. He made his way past the security checkpoint into the terminal and continued shooting.
He was eventually shot and apprehended by authorities elsewhere in the terminal. He was in critical condition.
“This act of violence reminds us of the risks the brave men and women of TSA face every day as they work to protect the traveling public,” acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers said in a statement.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Department go out to the family of the Transportation Security Administration employee who lost their life in the senseless shooting at Los Angeles International Airport earlier today, as well as the additional individuals, including TSA employees, who were injured in the incident,” Beers said.
The attack caused widespread chaos at the airport, with flights delayed and thousand of passengers left stranded on the streets in and around the airport. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged people to avoid LAX, including those who have flights Friday afternoon.
Authorities said the gunman fired at several locations in Terminal 3 before police shot him.
The motive for the shooting was unclear. A federal law enforcement official said the gunman was a ticketed passenger entering the airport.Los Angeles Police Department anti-terrorism officials were on the scene, but sources said they believed the suspect acted alone and was not tied to any known terrorist group.
At a news conference, the Los Angeles Fire Department said it treated seven people at the scene and transported six to local hospitals. The TSA said “multiple” agents were hurt in the incident.
At Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Lynne McCullough told reporters that the hospital was treating three adult males. One was in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, she said, and another was in fair condition with gunshot wounds. The third victim was in fair condition with unspecified injuries.
The gunshot wounds were in “a variety of areas” of their bodies, McCullough said.
“Our hearts go out to the families” of the victims, McCullough said.
Patrick Gannon, the LAX police chief, said the gunman entered Terminal 3 at 9:20 a.m., pulled an assault rifle out of his bag and began firing. He moved into the screening area and continued shooting, Gannon said. He got past the checkpoint and moved further into the terminal.
Authorities tracked him down and shot him near a Burger King.
Vernon Cardenas, 45, of West Hollywood said he was at the airport on his way to Philadelphia when the shooting occurred about 9:30 a.m.
“Sitting down, all of a sudden, literally just out of the blue, you hear a rumble in the background, and a couple of seconds later people are running at me,” said Cardenas, who does casting for the Fox television show “MasterChef.” He described the scene as “mayhem,” with couples crying and parents who couldn’t find their children.
Brian Adamick, 43, said he was boarding a Spirit Airlines flight to Chicago at Gate 32 when a commotion erupted.
He said people were running through the terminal, away from a security area. Adamick said he went through an emergency exit downstairs onto the tarmac with several other passengers.
“While I was on the tarmac, I heard two gunshots from the same area where the people had been running and screaming,” he said.
A few minutes after he got outside, he said buses showed up to help evacuate passengers. He said he saw a wounded TSA agent board one of the buses. The man’s ankle was bloody: “it looked like it was straight out of the movies,” Adamick said.
The man told him, “I got shot, I’m fine.” He told passengers not to worry about him and that he had been shot before, Adamick said.
A White House official said President Obama had been informed of the incident: “The President has been briefed about the shooting at LAX. We will continue to stay in touch with our federal and local partners. The LAPD is leading the response and investigation. We urge citizens to listen to the authorities and follow directions from the first responders on site. The president will continue to receive briefings throughout the day.”
Tory Belleci of the television show “Mythbusters” tweeted: “Heard gun shots then everyone starting running for the door. Not sure if anyone was hurt. #LAX.”
TV news footage showed dozens of officers swarming the airport. Images also showed a law enforcement officer being treated by paramedics. He appeared to be alert. Another officer had a bloody hand.