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Deadly shooting at LAX

Passengers describe the chaotic scene at Los Angeles International Airport after a gunman opens fire, killing a security agent.

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An Australian student who was in a Virgin America lounge at Los Angeles International Airport as a gunman opened fire in the terminal, killing a security officer, has given a detailed account of the fear and panic of passengers waiting for weekend flights.

The Sydney student, Josh who was tweeting as @PascalJosh, awoke to the horror that he had missed his flight after a Halloween party only to discover the real horror an hour later when he arrived at LAX's terminal 3.

A uniformed Transportation Security Administration employee who was manning a security checkpoint inside the airport's Terminal 3 was killed and seven other injured when the gunman opened fire at 9:20am.

Airline passengers are evacuated to the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport.

Airline passengers are evacuated to the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Reuters

"People are panicked everywhere," Josh tweeted from inside the lounge which was placed into lock down. "Tension is rife at the moment...lots of chaos. We all heard 6 shots from inside the terminal."

As passengers in the lounge were evacuated to the airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal with a police escort, Josh posted a photograph of what he said "looks to be a rifle on the floor guarded by a police officer."

"Being told to step around bullet castings or blood. As lots of evidence in the terminal," he tweeted.

"It's like a ghost town": Virgin Australia passenger Alexander Reid took this photo from the VA1 Boeing 777-300ER, which is sitting on the tarmac with 361 passengers on board.

"It's like a ghost town": Virgin Australia passenger Alexander Reid took this photo from the VA1 Boeing 777-300ER, which is sitting on the tarmac with 361 passengers on board. Photo: Alexander Reid

"The police are doing an incredible job and grateful that are all safe."

Josh tweeted that police were questioning passengers and recording their identity in the terminal, as well as handing out bottles of water and confectionery to exhausted travellers who had endured the terrifying incident.

Speaking to Fairfax Media via Twitter, the 19-year-old who had just finished his Higher School Certificate at TAFE said he had been travelling by himself from the east to west coast of the United States over the past fortnight.

Josh, who was due to fly from LAX to San Jose, said he was later allowed to leave the terminal and was being taken to a nearby hotel. "We are finally leaving. A very long day indeed."

 

Alleged gunman texted brother before the attack

Authorities have officially identified the gunman as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, a New Jersey native who lives in Los Angeles.

Ciancia's brother told police that he had received a text message in which Paul Ciancia said he was considering taking his life.

Ciancia's family then contacted Los Angeles police who spoke to Ciancia's neighbours. At the time they were interviewing Ciancia's neighbours, the shooting at LAX occurred.

According to one media report a law enforcement official, who was not authorised to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity said Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a note which made threats against the TSA.

According to police, he proceeded into the screening area and continued shooting. He then walked through the screening area and entered the "airside" of the airport.

One witness told US ABC Radio that the gunman pointed a weapon at him and asked him if he was "TSA".

When the witness replied that he was not, the gunman did not fire and moved on.

Airport police then pursued the gunman through the terminal, engaged him in gunfire and "successfully took him into custody".

Police said he they believe he was a "lone shooter".

"We believe he was the only person armed in the incident," a spokesman said.

"There is a tremendous amount of investigative work that will need to be done."

Police said the shooter was armed with an assault weapon and was screaming as he was shooting, but so far no witnesses who have spoken to media have been able to articulate what was being said.

Australians stranded on tarmac

Terminal 3 is one of nine terminals within the LAX complex. Since 2012, it has been the terminal base of the airlines JetBlue, Spirit, Virgin America and Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia's daily flight, number VA1, landed at the airport minutes before it was closed to air traffic at 10am, local time.

The plane - with more than 350 Australians on board - was held on the tarmac for more than an hour while security personnel swept the terminal area.

VA1, which departed Sydney yesterday, is operated by a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. It has a total capacity of 361 passengers when fully loaded.

One of the passengers, Alexander Reid, told Fairfax the mood on board was one of "calm, but there is a feeling of disbelief."

"The tarmac is full of planes but no movement. It's like a ghost town," he said.

Mr Reid said passengers became aware of the emergency as they began to switch on phones when the plane landed.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Charlie Beck, were both on the scene within the hour.

All air traffic over the airport was suspended and planes on the tarmac and taxiways at the airport were placed on "ground stop".

A ground stop prohibits aircraft from moving, landing or taking off. It is most commonly ordered during severe storms or security emergencies.

New Zealand actor Jay Ryan, best known for roles in Sea Patrol and the new US series Beauty on the Beast, was on a flight bound for LAX from Toronto, where Beauty on the Beast is filmed.

Ryan's flight was diverted to LA's smaller Ontario International Airport.

In a footnote which seems unique to Los Angeles, the television series Mad Men was filming scenes for an upcoming episode in the adjacent terminal, Terminal 4, when shooting broke out.

Terminal 4 is the base of operations for American Airlines.

Production was halted and the cast and crew were moved, along with passengers in the terminal, to a safe area until security allowed them to return to the main part of the terminal.

One of the show's crew, key grip (lighting technician) Dustin Woods, said on the social media site Twitter that the police were sweeping the terminal with the dog squad. "Should be getting the all clear shortly," he tweeted.