The LAX Shooting: What We Know, What We Think We Do, and What We Don't

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 1 2013 7:12 PM

The LAX Shooting: What We Know, What We Think We Do, and What We Don't

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Firetrucks are positioned outside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on November 1, 2013 after a gunman reportedly opened fire at a security checkpoint

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

What We Know: Police say that a 23-year-old gunman carrying an "assault rifle" opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport at about 9:20 a.m local time on Friday, killing at least one TSA officer and injuring an unknown number of others. According to LAX police chief Patrick Gannon, the suspect made his way past the security checkpoint into the terminal before he was wounded in a shootout with police, and then taken into custody.

The FBI has since identified the gunman as Paul Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old American who is resident of Los Angeles.

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The identity of the deceased TSA officer has not yet been released. The agent is the first to be killed in the line of duty in the 12-year history of the agency, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11.

An agency spokesman confirmed that "multiple" other TSA agents were injured during the incident. A total of six people were transported to area hospitals, according to fire department officials. Of the three taken to the UCLA hospital, one person was in critical condition Friday afternoon and the two others were said to have non-life-threatening injuries. The conditions of the other three were unknown.

What We Think We Know: Police say that they believe gunman was acting alone. The shooter, according to police, had concealed his weapon inside a bag before entering the complex. Police have not yet confirmed the suspect's condition. Earlier reports suggested that he had died, although sources now tell the Los Angeles Times that he was in critical condition as of Friday evening.

The Associated Press and NBC News, based on information from unnamed law enforcement sources, are suggesting that Ciancia was intentionally targeting TSA agents—something that lines up with several eyewitness reports. One law enforcement speaking off the record told the AP that the suspect's bag contained a hand-written note that said he "wanted to kill TSA." NBC, meanwhile, reports that the suspect was "carrying anti-government material."

Early reports from both the LAT and others initially suggested that the gunman was himself an off-duty TSA agent, although that no longer appears to be the case. The Los Angeles Times, citing a federal law enforcement official, described the gunman as a "ticketed passenger entering the airport."

What We Don't Know: The identity of anyone other than the alleged shooter, along with the exact nature of the injuries of the wounded. We, likewise, do not know how many people were actually shot during the incident, and how many of the injuries occurred in the rush to flee the chaos.

At a late afternoon media briefing, local and federal officials suggested that they were going to keep many details under wraps until their investigation is complete. The biggest question, as always, remains the motive. For now, we just don't know.

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