EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 2, 2013

LAX airport shooting: 5 victims taken to hospitals

One person confirmed dead

By Christoper Weber
Associated Press

---- — LOS ANGELES — A suspected gunman was in custody following a shooting at Los Angeles airport that killed a TSA officer and wounded other people.

Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Armando Hogan said five people were taken to hospitals after the shooting: The gunman, the TSA officer who died, two other people who were shot, and one person with a broken ankle. A sixth person was treated at the scene for ringing in the ears from gunfire.

Officials did not indicate whether any of the people who were injured were TSA officers.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the airport shooter was carrying a lot of additional ammunition.

“There were more than 100 more rounds,” he said.

As two terminals reopened, hundreds of passengers pulled rolling suitcases across a road outside the facilities, standing shoulder-to-shoulder across all four lanes. Motorcycle police with megaphones followed slowly behind, trying to herd them onto the sidewalk.

Airport officials say 746 flights nationwide were affected by the incident. Some 46 were diverted, and others were held at LAX or at the originating airport. Terminal 3, where the shooting occurred, remained closed as the forensics investigation continued.

Employees were being let back into two closed terminals, and taxis and buses were again running on a loop through the airport. In addition, the FAA has dropped its “ground stop” order, meaning airliners in other cities were allowed to resume flying to LAX. Earlier, nearly 200 flights were cancelled and others were diverted.

One of the victims taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center arrived without signs of life, said trauma surgeon David Plurad. Doctors worked for more than an hour to try to revive the man, but were unsuccessful. He died from gunshot wounds to his chest and abdomen. Another man was shot in the shoulder and is expected to survive.

Another person was released from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The hospitals did not identify the patients, citing privacy issues.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that 23-year-old suspect Paul Ciancia is from New Jersey and was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a hand-written note that said he “wanted to kill TSA and pigs.” The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

A New Jersey police chief said the suspect had apparently made references to suicide. Pennsville Chief Allen Cummings said Ciancia’s father had called him Friday, saying another of his children had received a text message from the suspect “in reference to him taking his own life.” Cummings said the elder Ciancia, also named Paul, asked him for help locating his son.

Travelers by the hundreds streamed into hotels near LAX. The lobbies of the Sheraton and Radisson at the airport’s entrance overflowed onto sidewalks. Ronald Dauzat, owner and headmaster of a Los Angeles private school, was on his way to Berlin for an educational conference. He had resigned himself to spending most of the day at the Sheraton.

“I’m dealing with it the best I can,” he said. “We just have to wait it out.”

Union and TSA officials said the TSA officer shot at LAX was the first ever killed in the line of duty. J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the officer was one of the behavioral detection officers stationed throughout the airport looking for suspicious behavior.

Three people were being treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. A hospital official said one was in critical condition and two were in fair condition. Two were wounded by gunshots and the other suffered other injuries. All are male.

Dr. Lynne McCullough, an emergency medicine physician, said the hospital was capable of taking up to 50 patients.

“As it turned out, very thankfully, we received only three,’’ she said.

Actor James Franco was among the travelers caught up in the chaos. His publicist confirmed Franco was on a flight that landed shortly after the shooting occurred. Singer Nick Jonas tweeted about waiting on board a plane and said he was praying for the victims.

The Transportation Security Administration said multiple officers with the agency were shot, one fatally. The agency declined to provide further information, saying additional details would be given by the FBI and police.

Tim Kauffman, a spokesman for American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 45,000 TSA screeners, said the airport shooter was not a TSA officer.

Police told KNX Radio that officers were looking at the hundreds of vehicles in the parking structure near Terminal 3, but weren’t sure how the shooter got to the airport.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it increased its airport patrols as a precaution in the wake of the shooting. Chief Security Officer Joseph Dunne said the stepped-up patrols were not expected to affect flight operations.

Xavier Savant was waiting in the security line at the terminal where the shooting occurred, and he and other passengers dropped to the floor in panic. He described it as a “bam, bam, bam” burst of gunfire.

“We just hit the deck,’’ he said. “Everybody in the line hit the floor and shots just continued.’’

He said the shots subsided and people bolted through the metal detectors and ran into the terminal, eventually making their way out to the tarmac.

“My whole thing was to get away from him,” said Savant, an advertising creative director in Hollywood who was heading to New York City with his family.

Ben Rosen, 30, was sitting at the Starbucks in Terminal 3 eating oatmeal when he heard gunfire erupt and people start running in all directions and crouching on the floor.

Police arrived with guns drawn and shouted, “This is not a drill, hands up,” Rosen said. Everyone raised their hands and they were led out of the terminal. As they were led out, they saw broken glass from a window that looked like it had been shot out. Rosen left his bag behind.

“It was scary. I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” he said. “I definitely felt underprepared. In retrospect, you have all these fire drills in school but you don’t really have gunman drills.”

LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon said actions of responding officers were heroic.

“They did not hesitate,’’ he said. “They went after this individual. They confronted this individual in our airport.’’

Gannon said the gunman entered the terminal, pulled a rifle from a bag and began shooting. The gunfire continued at a screening checkpoint before he entered a secured area. Officers took him into custody after a shootout.

“As you can imagine, a large amount of chaos took place in this entire incident,” he said.

Interim Los Angeles Fire Chief Jim Featherstone said paramedics treated seven people at the scene, and six were taken to hospitals.