LOS ANGELES - A gunman opened fire with an assault rifle at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Friday, killing a security agent, creating scenes of chaos and causing widespread flight disruptions.
Panicked travellers scrambled to escape after the shooter, named as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, pulled out the gun and shot his way through a security checkpoint before being stopped in an exchange of fire with police.
The victim was the first employee of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to be killed in the line of duty since the TSA was set up in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Seven people were injured, but the lone gunman had lots more ammunition on him when he was arrested, said LA mayor Eric Garcetti.
"There were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal today," he said, praising airport police. "If it were not for their actions, there could have been a lot more damage," he said.
The motive for the shooting was unclear, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it could not rule out terrorism. The gunman was reported to be in critical condition in hospital.
The shooter opened fire shortly after 9:00 am in a crowded terminal of LAX, the country's third-biggest air transport hub.
He "came into Terminal Three, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire," said LAX police chief Patrick Gannon.
"He proceeded up into the screening area... and continued shooting," he said.
TV footage showed people diving to the floor at the sound of gunfire and scrambling to escape the terminal.
Police chased the gunman to near a Burger King restaurant where they "engaged him in gunfire... and were able to successfully take him into custody."
The TSA, which employs screeners and guards at airports, confirmed one of its employees had died. "Multiple Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) were shot, one fatally," said a TSA statement emailed to AFP.