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LOS ANGELES (AP and WDRB) -- A gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, killing a Transportation Security Administration employee and wounding two other people in an attack that frightened passengers and disrupted flights nationwide, officials said.
A law enforcement official tells The Associated Press that the suspect is a 23-year-old man from New Jersey who wrote a rant about killing Transportation Safety Administration workers.
A law enforcement official, who was briefed at LAX on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly, said the gunman 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.
The official identified him as Paul Ciancia. A second law enforcement official confirmed the identity, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Authorities say the suspect killed TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, in the shooting. He is the first officer killed in the line of duty in the TSA's 12-year history.
TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a message to employees Friday evening that "no words can explain the horror that we experienced today."
Los Angeles police Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said the suspect, Ciancia, who was apparently injured following an exchange of gunfire with officers, was in custody.
Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said the gunman pulled what he described as an "assault rifle" from a bag and began firing. "As you can imagine, a large amount of chaos took place in this entire incident," he said.
Some passengers who already had cleared security rushed onto the tarmac to evacuate, while others were locked down in airport restaurants and lounges. The airport was being swept for precautionary measures and the bomb unit was on scene.
One traveler says he was at a Starbucks in Terminal 3 of the airport when he heard gunfire erupt.
Ben Rosen says he saw people start running in all directions, and others crouching on the ground. He got on the ground as well -- and then more gunshots erupted. He says police arrived with guns drawn, and told everyone to put their hands up. They were then led into another terminal.
Rosen says as they were led out, they saw broken glass from a window that looked like it had been shot out.
When the shooting began, some passengers who already had cleared security rushed onto the tarmac, while others were locked down in airport restaurants and lounges.
An air traffic controller says his colleagues in the control tower saw passengers spilling from the terminal onto the tarmac, "getting out as fast as they could."
A New Jersey police chief says the suspect had apparently made references to suicide.
Pennsville Chief Allen Cummings says Paul Ciancia's father called him early Friday afternoon saying another of his children had received a text message from the suspect "in reference to him taking his own life."
Cummings says the elder Ciancia asked him for help in locating Paul, according to Cummings. The chief says he called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. There, two roommates said they had seen him Thursday and that he was fine.
Cummings says he told Ciancia's father that because of the son's age, he couldn't take a missing persons report. He says his department had no dealings with the younger Paul Ciancia.
Air traffic was affected nationwide as the FAA grounded flights that had not yet departed for LAX.
Witness Brian Keech said he heard "about a dozen gunshots" from inside a security gate at the terminal, which has been evacuated.
Ben Rosen was sitting at the Starbucks in Terminal 3 eating oatmeal at about 9:20 a.m. when he heard gunfire erupt and people start running in all directions and others crouching on the ground. Rosen got on the ground and another passenger said "don't worry we're safe."
Then more gunshots erupted. He grabbed his phone and tried to lie down as flat on the ground as he could. Police showed up with their guns drawn, shouting, "This is not a drill, hands up."
Everyone put their hands up and then were led out of the airport terminal to the international terminal, Rosen said.
As they were led out they saw broken glass from a window that looked like it'd been shot out. Rosen left his bag behind.
"It was scary I've never experienced anything like this before," he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said a "ground stop" was in affect for all flights heading to Los Angeles, meaning planes in any other airport in the country can't take off for the city, although some flights already in the air were allowed to land.
LAX air traffic controller Michael Foote said some flights were still being allowed to depart.
Foote said his colleagues in the control tower saw passengers spilling from the terminal onto the tarmac, "evacuating the building, getting out as fast as they could." Officers eventually corralled them.
Other travelers described a chaotic scene as airport security staff evacuated terminals, including onto to the tarmac. Hundreds of people remained gathered outside next to airplanes as authorities investigated what happened.
"People started saying there's a shooter, there's a shooter," said Natalie Morin, a senior at USC who was heading to San Francisco for a graduate school interview.
Emergency crews responded to a multi-patient incident, Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said. Terminal 3 is home to Virgin America and other airlines.