LOS ANGELES — A 23-year-old man wielding an assault rifle and carrying 100 rounds of ammunition shot and killed a Transportation Security Administration officer at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning, sending travelers fleeing in panic and paralyzing one of the world’s busiest airports for hours.
Two other people, one of them a security agent, were shot and at least four others were injured in the melee.
The gunman entered Terminal 3 just before 9:30 a.m., pulled a weapon from a bag and began firing as he forced his way through a security checkpoint, officials said. Airport police officers chased him through the bustling terminal as he continued to fire, before shooting him near a departure gate and arresting him.
The TSA agent who was killed was the first to die in the line of duty since the agency was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said.
Thousands of travelers throughout the airport were evacuated, and flights were grounded for hours, with some incoming flights diverted to nearby airports and others held on the tarmac while the shooting unfolded. Passengers spent hours in waiting areas, parking lots and nearby hotels as they waited for flights to resume. Air traffic across the country was stalled in a ripple effect from the shutdown.
Federal officials identified the gunman as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Los Angeles, who had previously lived in New Jersey. A senior federal official said that he had a note with “anti-government and anti-TSA ramblings.” Ciancia was being treated at a Los Angeles hospital, officials said. Rich Garry, 68, of Fullerton, Calif., said he had been at Terminal 3 on Friday morning headed for a flight to New York to visit family members. He said that a security officer had just checked his boarding pass and that he was waiting in line at the security checkpoint when he heard two shots.
“I heard a ‘pop-pop’ and I looked down a floor below, and the TSA guy was on the floor,” he said. “He had been shot.”
At a news conference Friday evening, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles said the gunman had had at least 100 rounds “that could have literally killed everyone in that terminal.”
A spokeswoman at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center said that the hospital had admitted three male patients, two with gunshot wounds. One of the men who had been shot was in critical condition and the two others were in fair condition.
The TSA identified the slain agent as Gerardo Hernandez, 39. Officials said he was working as a behavior detection officer, responsible for spotting suspicious activity.