One of the world's busiest airports was thrown into chaos yesterday as a gunman opened fire with a high-powered rifle inside a terminal, killing a security agent and injuring several others.
Passengers were sent fleeing on to the tarmac or locked themselves in bathrooms after the lone gunman walked into the lobby of Los Angeles International Airport's Terminal 3.
The suspect is reportedly a white male and was identified last night as Paul Ciancia (23).
It later emerged that Mr Ciancia's father had called Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings yesterday about a text message from his son "in reference to him taking his own life," Chief Cummings told The Associated Press.
The father asked for help in locating his son, Cummings said. The chief called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment.
"Basically, there were two room-mates there," Cummings said. "They said, 'We saw him yesterday and he was fine.'"
It wasn't clear whether the police visited before or after the shooting.
It is understood that he went up to a check-in counter at the airport, also known as LAX, where he pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and opened fire.
Witnesses heard "popping" sounds before the gunman moved up an escalator, and through a security screening area to where passengers were waiting for their flights .
He was then shot and wounded by police. Up to a dozen shots were heard by passengers as they scrambled away.
An employee of the Transportation Security Administration, which provides US airport security, was reportedly killed.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said it had treated seven people, six of whom had been taken to hospitals.
"Less than a minute after the shots, the LAPD burst into the lounge with weapons drawn to make sure there were no bad guys in the lounge," he said. "That was pretty frightening."
Daly said when the airport was evacuated he saw a gun that looked like an AR-15 assault rifle with three clips on the floor outside Gates 35 and 36.
He said: "It was right in the middle of where everyone waits to get on their planes.
"We were told not to step on any blood or bags because it was evidence."
All LA flights were grounded and President Barack Obama was being kept informed.
Passenger Sarah Richardson said: "We heard a lot of loud gunshots. My colleague threw me to the ground and we were scrambling. Somebody told us to make a run for it. We got into a room and they pulled a coffee machine in front of the door. We could hear gunshots outside.
"The sound was so loud we thought a bomb had gone off. Some people hid in a bathroom. It was pure and utter mayhem, people tripping over each other, crying and screaming, bags everywhere."
Passenger Rodrigo Jara described the gunman as a white man with blonde hair who was just "walking like he was going to buy tea."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)