Updated at 11:34 p.m EST on Nov. 1
A Transportation Security Administration employee was shot and killed Friday after a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport, officials said, prompting a partial evacuation and a temporary grounding of flights at one of the country’s busiest airports.
At a news conference Friday evening, David Bowdich, special agent in charge of FBI counterterrorism, said the suspect has been identified as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, a current resident of Los Angeles and former resident of Pennsville, NJ. The suspect, who was injured in a shootout, was in custody.
Late Friday night, the TSA identified the officer killed as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. He’s the first officer killed in the line of duty in the agency’s 12-year history. At least two other TSA employees were shot, and several other people were injured, possibly in an attempt to run away from the scene, Bowdich said.
According to the Associated Press, the suspect was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag that contained a handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and “pigs.” Earlier in the day, Ciancia allegedly sent a sibling a text message about committing suicide, Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said.
A White House official said that President Barack Obama called TSA Administrator John Pistole to express his condolences, as well as his gratitude for the men and women working at the TSA. Pistole said he would be traveling to Los Angeles on Saturday to meet with Hernandez’s family and the injured other officers.
“Together, we will get through this,” Pistole said. “Our faith will guide us and our professionalism will ensure our ability to carry out our mission.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said at about noon local time that the airport was safe, and another airport official said incoming flights were being allowed to land, albeit at about half the airport’s usual capacity. Flights were expected to be delayed significantly throughout the rest of the day. By early afternoon, 133 flights to and from the airport were canceled and 293 flights were delayed, the LA Times reports.
“We believe this to be a static situation now, a safe one for those that are in the airport,” Garcetti said.
Three people were taken to the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center, Lynne McCullough, an emergency medicine physician there, told the AP.
A chaotic scene unfolded at about 9:20 a.m. PST on Friday, police and witnesses said, when a man entered Terminal 3 of the airport, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag, and started shooting while yelling angrily in English. The gunman managed to shoot his way through a security checkpoint before he was engaged by police and taken into custody.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene of people running after shots were first fired. Vernon Cardenas, a 45-year-old from West Hollywood, told the Los Angeles Times that he was headed to a flight to Philadelphia when the shooting started at 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,” Cardenas said.
A White House official said President Barack Obama had been briefed on the incident.
“We will continue stay in touch with our federal and local partners,” the White House official said. “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.”
Local news footage showed medical personnel setting up green and red tarps on the ground outside the airport, consistent with the protocol for triage evaluations of multiple victims. Parts of the airport were evacuated following the shooting, and all planes were temporarily grounded. Police were also sweeping the airport as a precaution.
Garcetti advised people with flights scheduled for later in the day to stay away from the airport, “not because of safety but because the investigation makes the airport a very difficult place to get to.”
Auto traffic around the airport was at a standstill Friday afternoon, but slowly resumed as the day wore on.