LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — A gunman opened fire with a rifle in a Los Angeles International airport terminal on Friday, killing a Transportation Security Administration agent and wounding at least six other people before he was shot and captured, authorities said.
The attack set off chaos, with passengers running, diving and hiding in the crowded terminal of the airport, one of the world’s busiest, where Terminal 3 was quickly evacuated. Departing flights were halted, arriving planes were diverted, and streets surrounding the airport were shut down.
“An individual came into Terminal 3 of this airport, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in the terminal,” Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police, said at a news conference.
Gannon said the gunman, who appeared to be acting alone, made his way past the screening gates and well into the secured area before law enforcement officers shot him and took him into custody. His condition was not immediately clear.
Authorities did not name the suspect, but California U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a member of the House Homeland Security committee, during an interview on CNN identified him as 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, a Los Angeles area resident. Sanchez said she had been briefed by authorities on details of the attack.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said that multiple agents had been shot, one fatally. The agency did not identify the slain agent.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said it was handling one person who was killed in the shooting, a man approximately 40 years old who was not identified by name. It was not immediately clear if that person was the TSA agent.
A Los Angeles fire department spokesman said seven people were wounded in the shooting and that six of them had been taken to area hospitals.
Three male victims hurt in the incident were taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where one was listed in critical condition and two others in fair condition, said Mark Wheeler, a spokesman for the hospital.
The condition of the other victims or the gunman was not immediately clear.
Witness Alex Neumann, meanwhile, told cable network CNN that he was in an area inside the airport past a security checkpoint when he heard loud noises and screaming and saw people running.
“We were at the food court and all of a sudden I hear a big commotion and people started running. People were running and people getting knocked down,” Neumann said, adding that he heard screams. “Mayhem is the best way of describing it.”
Television images showed at least one person being loaded into one of several ambulances, and passengers were seen being evacuated. Footage showed emergency responders setting up what appeared to be a triage area outside an airport terminal.
“Other than arriving flights, flight operations have been temporary held,” airport spokesman Katherine Alvarado said in an emailed statement.
President Obama was briefed on the incident and White House officials are in touch with law enforcement officials on the ground, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Los Angeles International Airport is the world’s sixth busiest, handling 63,688,121 passengers in 2012, according to its official website.