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Gunman kills TSA officer, wounds 3 others at LAX, officials say

LOS ANGELES -- A man carrying a note that said he wanted to "kill TSA" pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and shot his way past a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday, killing one federal officer and wounding at least three others, authorities said.

The gunman was wounded in a shootout with airport police and taken into custody, authorities said. The Washington Post reported last night that he was in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and in custody.

The attack at the nation's third-busiest airport sent terrified travelers running for cover and disrupted more than 700 flights across the United States, many of which were held on the ground at LAX or not allowed to take off for Los Angeles from other airports.

The slain security worker, identified as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, was the first Transportation Security Administration officer killed in the line of duty in the 12-year history of the agency, which was founded in the aftermath of 9/11. At least three other TSA officers were wounded, said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Their conditions also were not disclosed.

The FBI and Los Angeles Airport Police identified the gunman as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J. He had apparently been living in Los Angeles.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and "pigs." Ciancia, who had at least five full 30-round magazines on him, was shot in the mouth and leg by two airport police officers, the official said.

Early Friday afternoon, Ciancia's father in New Jersey had called authorities for help in finding his son after the young man sent one of his siblings a text message about committing suicide, Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said.

The chief said he called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment.

There, two roommates said that they had seen him Thursday and that he was fine, according to Cummings.

Cummings said that the Ciancias -- owners of an auto body shop -- are a "good family" and that his department had had no dealings with the son.

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, Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said.

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.

The officer who was killed was one of the behavioral detection officers that are stationed throughout the airport, looking for suspicious behavior, Cox said.

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