The man, identified by the FBI as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Los Angeles, made his way deep into the airport before he was wounded by police near a Burger King on the departure-gate side of the security checkpoint. He is in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and in custody, officials said.
A TSA official late Friday night identified the slain screener as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. He was the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty since the Transportation Security Administration was created after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the American Federation of Government Employees said.
Police said paramedics treated seven other people for injuries. Six of those, including at least two TSA agents, were taken to hospitals. In a message to employees, TSA Administrator John Pistole said two other TSA officers are recovering from their wounds.
The notion of a gunman firing a semiautomatic rifle at security screeners at a major airport just weeks before the crowded and stressful holiday season struck a nerve among travelers across the country.
It also brought the nation’s third-busiest airport to a near standstill and disrupted global airline schedules. Hundreds of departing flights were grounded or delayed for hours. Many arriving flights were diverted to other Southern California airports, and officials advised passengers booked on afternoon flights to just stay away.
In the confusion, passengers wandered around the airport grounds looking for their baggage, or for a relative who had come to meet them, or a vacant hotel room to stay in until flights resumed.
Police said they believe Ciancia, who originally is from the South Jersey town of Pennsville, acted alone. They said they don’t know much yet about his motive, but authorities said they don’t believe it was part of any organized terror attack.
The Pennsville police chief said Friday night that Ciancia’s family had feared that Ciancia was considering suicide. Chief Allen Cummings said that Ciancia’s father called police on Friday saying that a sibling had received a text message from Ciancia mentioning suicide.
The chief called Los Angeles police to request that they check on him.
“There were two roommates, and they said he was there yesterday but not today,” Cummings said.
The shooting at LAX underscored the continuing vulnerability of airport hubs despite a steady escalation of security over the past decade, even as travelers have grown accustomed to taking off their shoes in screening lines, undergoing full body scans and ditching their bottled water.