A lone gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport in Southern California early Friday, killing at least one person, injuring several more and prompting authorities to evacuate a major terminal at LAX.
At a press conference late Friday morning, officials confirmed that they had taken into custody a suspect believed to be responsible for a rampage that started earlier that day at around 9:20 a.m. local time.
The suspect has been identified as 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, of Los Angeles, according to federal officials who spoke to NBC. The gunman was initially reported dead at the scene but multiple sources now report that he is in critical condition.
Authorities have not formally announced any casualties, but the Los Angeles Times and NBC News have both reported that a federal agent employed by the Transportation Security Administration was shot and killed during the ordeal.
During the press briefing, acting-Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Jim Featherstone said seven people had been treated on the scene, six of whom had also been transported to an area hospital. At least one of the people injured was in critical condition and another two were known to have suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Terminal 3 at LAX was the scene of mass chaos hours earlier when a gunman spontaneously opened fire, and eyewitnesses say they heard anywhere between eight to 30 shots as the incident unfolded.
Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon told reporters that the suspect entered the terminal, then “Pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire.”
“He proceeded up into the screening area where TSA screeners are and continued shooting and went past the screeners back into the airport itself,” Gannon said.
Personnel officers from the Los Angeles Airport Police responded immediately, Gannon said, then tracked the individual through the airport and engaged him at gunfire before taking him into custody.
Travelers panicked as the first shots rang out, with those making it past the security gate rushing onto the tarmac or ducking into restaurants.
“We just hit the desk. Everybody in the line hit the floor and shots just continued,” Xavier Savant, who was waiting in the security line at the time, told the AP. He described the sound of the shooting as “Bam! Bam! Bam!”
Pete Williams of NBC News said Ciancia may have had some connection with the TSA and seemed to target TSA agents has his victims. An American citizen, Ciancia was not reported to be classified as a potential threat on any watch list or state database.
“We’re told that he had strong anti-government views,” Williams said. “That’s based on some written material that we’re told he was carrying, that they found on him after he was shot by LA airport police. So, it would seem to be a combination of anti-government views and some kind of grudge against the TSA.”
A police source told the Associated Press Ciancia is from New Jersey and was carrying a bag with a hand-written note indicating he “wanted to kill TSA and pigs.”
CBS’s John Miller initially reported that the suspected gunman was wearing camouflage clothing when he entered the area and may have been purposely targeting TSA workers. Preliminary reports suggested that the shooter may had been a disgruntled, perhaps former TSA employee, but Chief Gannon told reporters that he could not confirm allegations that the suspect was a federal worker.
Fox Sports national columnist Bill Reiter was at LAX at the time of the incident and documented the ordeal in real time over Twitter shortly after he first heard shots being fired.