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Gunman kills TSA officer at LAX, wounds 2 others

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 2, 2013 at 2:27 am •  Published: November 2, 2013
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The attack began around 9:20 a.m. when the gunman pulled an assault-style rifle from a bag and began firing inside Terminal 3, Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said. The terminal serves such airlines as Virgin America, AirTran, Spirit Airlines, Horizon Air and JetBlue.

The gunman then went to the security screening area, where he fired more shots and went into the secure area of the terminal, Gannon said. Officers exchanged fire with him and seized him, Gannon said.

As gunfire rang out, panicked travelers dropped to the ground. Those who had made it past security ran out of the terminal and onto the tarmac or took cover inside restaurants and lounges.

"We just hit the deck. Everybody in the line hit the floor and shots just continued," said Xavier Savant, who was waiting in the security line where the shooting took place. He described it as a "Bam! Bam! Bam!" burst of gunfire.

Savant said people bolted through the metal detectors and ran into the terminal.

"My whole thing was to get away from him," said Savant, an advertising creative director who was heading to New York with his family for a weekend trip.

Just a few weeks ago, airport police and the Los Angeles Police Department had jointly trained for a similar shooting scenario, according to Gannon, who said officers told him the drill was critical in preparing them for the real thing.

While Terminal 3 remained closed, much of the rest of the airport continued operating, though with some disruptions. Some LAX-bound flights that were already in the air were diverted to other airports.

Throughout the day, an estimated 1,550 scheduled arriving and departing flights with around 167,000 passengers were affected, according to the airport. That included 86 arriving flights that were diverted to other airports.

The ripple effect was felt across the country and especially around the airport, where hundreds of stranded passengers streamed into nearby hotels, rolling bags behind them down roads absent of car traffic.

The officer who was killed was one of the behavioral detection officers that are stationed throughout the airport, looking for suspicious behavior, said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Initially, Cox said at least three other TSA officers were wounded. Later in the day, the TSA said two other officers were wounded. Their conditions were not disclosed.

The Los Angeles Fire Department revised its total number of victims taken to hospitals from six to five, saying one had been double counted. Those numbers included Hernandez, Ciancia and one person who broke an ankle.

Ben Rosen was sitting at a Starbucks in the terminal eating oatmeal when he heard gunfire erupt and saw people running in all directions or crouching. He grabbed his phone and tried to lie as flat on the ground as he could.

Police showed up with guns drawn, shouting, "This is not a drill! Hands up!"

People put their hands up and then were led out of the terminal to the adjacent international terminal, Rosen said. As they were led out they saw broken glass from a window that looked as if it had been shot out. Rosen left his bag behind.

It was not the first shooting at LAX. On July 4, 2002, a limousine driver opened fire at the airport's El Al ticket counter, killing an airline employee and a person who was dropping off a friend at the terminal. Police killed the man.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Joan Lowy and Alicia Caldwell in Washington; Greg Risling, Christopher Weber, Alicia Chang, Alicia Rancilio, Gillian Flaccus and Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles; Josh Hoffner in Phoenix; and Michael Rubinkam in Pennsylvania.