Gunman kills TSA agent at LAX, injures 7

A heavily-armed gunman killed a Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) agent at a security check point in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) this morning. The shooting resulted the closure of three terminals in one of the nation’s busiest airports for several hours, causing extensive flight delays around the country.

The deceased agent, whose identity is being withheld out of respect for his family, is the first to be killed in the line of duty since the TSA’s creation following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

According to the FBI, which is taking the lead in investigating the shooting, at least one other TSA agent was also wounded by gunshot. In all, 7 people were treated for injuries related to the incident; 6 were taken to area hospitals. Some of the injuries appeared to have been suffered when the victims were trying to evade the gunman.

The shooting suspect has been identified as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia. Although details are scarce, officials said that Ciancia grew up in New Jersey but now resides in Los Angeles. He is a U.S. citizen.

“We are currently investigating his background and more about him. I’m not going to provide too many updates on that from this point,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Bowdich.

Bowdich did urge the public to call the FBI’s tip line at 1-888-226-8443 “if they have information which would be beneficial to this investigation”.

Los Angeles airport police chief Patrick Gannon said Ciancia entered 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,” said Gannon, who stressed that armed police officers responded “within seconds after the shooting started.”

He said that Ciancia continued “shooting as he went into the terminal”.

“The suspect got back very far into a terminal. There’s a Burger King that’s quite a ways away from the screening station and he was able to get back there,” said Gannon.

Shortly thereafter, Ciancia was shot and wounded by airport police officers, who took him into custody.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck praised the “heroism” of airport police officers whose quick actions, they said, saved lives.

While officials wound not comment on the specific weapons and ammunitions used by Ciancia, Garcetti did reveal that the suspect was carrying “more than 100 more rounds” of ammunitions when he shot by police.

“There were additional rounds that this gunman, and the fact that these officers were able to neutralize the threat as they did – there were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal today. Were it not for their actions, there could have been a lot more damage,” said Garcetti.

Ciancia’s condition is unclear as of this afternoon; Bowdich would only confirm that Ciancia was “receiving medical attention at the hospital”.

Both Garcetti and Gannon attributed today’s successful response to the training conducted 3 weeks, where airport police and LAPD “practiced the exact scenario that played out today”.

“I was talking to the officers involved in this particular incident…and they said that that training was critical to how they responded to this,” said Gannon. He said none of the airport police officers who responded to the shooting were injured.

The shooting forced the closure of Terminals 3, 2, and 1 – about 50% of the airport – between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., stranding hundreds, if not, thousands of travelers in LAX and around the country.

“There were about 746 flights that were affected. 46 of those were diverted to other local airports. The rest were either held on the ground here at LAX or at their originating airports,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).

Stranded passengers seeking accommodations are encouraged to call the LA Tourism and Convention Board at 1-888-831-7176.

Terminals 1 and 2 were re-opened this evening, but Terminal 3 and the parking structure 3 will remain closed while forensic teams comb through the crime scene.

“We will have [Terminal 3] shut down for a while while we continue the investigation. Forensic teams are in there from both the FBI as well as LAPD. Their work is long, and methodical and they will take their time on this to be complete in their investigation,” said Bowdich.

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