A man carrying anti-government material and an assault rifle shot his way through security at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, killing one Transportation Security Administration worker, wounding as many as three others and sending terrified travelers diving for cover and fleeing onto the tarmac, authorities and witnesses said.
The gunman, identified by law-enforcement officials as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, was shot by law enforcement and taken into custody in critical condition. The motive is not clear but it's believed he had anti-government views based on written materials he was carrying, the officials said.
Federal officials told NBC News it was unclear whether Ciancia was targeting the TSA or was trying to shoot his way through to get further into the airport. But one witness said the shooter, who calmly walking through the terminal with his weapon, approached him with a one-word question.
"All he said was, 'TSA?' Just like that," Leon Saryan told MSNBC.
The shooting started at about 9:20 a.m. local time at Terminal 3, which serves Virgin America and other airlines. Ciancia took out the rifle and opened fire at the security checkpoint, then went far into the terminal, where he was captured after exchanging fire with law enforcement, authorities said.
When the gunfire erupted, travelers who were waiting to snake through the security line suddenly had to abandon their suitcases and hit the ground.
“We were just standing there in line and somebody started shooting,” said Nick Pugh, a witness, who told NBC Los Angeles that he heard eight to 10 shots. “Everyone dropped to the floor and started crawling along the ground.”
LAX Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon describes a gunman opening fire in the terminal, then approaching and firing at TSA screeners, before continuing into the airport, where he engaged in gunfire with officers and eventually taken into custody.
The shooting brought one of the nation’s busiest airports to a standstill.