Philadelphia-Bound Travelers at LAX: Scene Was ‘Chaotic, Surreal'

Shooting at Los Angeles International leaves one person dead, others hurt; gunman in custody

Travelers waiting to board Philadelphia-bound flights at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday say the airport turned into a "chaotic" place after a gunman armed with a rifle opened fire.

"I heard it pop twice," said Cynthia Dieyi, who was just yards from where the shooting took place.

Dieyi was sitting at her gate in LAX's Terminal 3, talking with another passenger, when the "surreal" scene unfolded about 9:20 a.m. Pacific time.

"All of the sudden it was commotion, people were running and I just picked up my stuff and ran as well," she said.

The lone gunman, identified by authorities as 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, walked into the terminal, pulled a semi-automatic rife from a bag and began firing into a screening area and into the airport, officials said.

A TSA official was killed and several others were hurt, according to officials. Ciancia was taken into custody. Officials are investigating the motive.

Dieyi, a 24-year-old USC grad student, was traveling to Philadelphia to visit her sister who's a student at Drexel University.

She didn't get a glimpse of the gunman, but says another travelers described the man to her.

"Some of the people that saw the guy said that he looked like he was about 5-foot-8, white, yea, he had a rifle, and he was mumbling something," Dieyi said.

The Nigerian-native says she stayed calm, but that there was a lot of "panic" in the terminal as people rushed to get out of harms way. She assisted families with small children get onto the tarmac and keep calm.

"There were a few tears, people were screaming, kids were running," she said. "It was surreal, definitely."

Jeff Wasiluski was waiting to board his flight Friday when all of a sudden there was a rush of police urging everyone to evacuate.

"It was a pretty chaotic scene," he said, as he waited to get the all-clear from authorities.

Wasiluski, who is traveling to Philadelphia for his brother's wedding, and hundreds of other travelers were quickly ushered outside.

"They told everyone in the terminal to get out and then we went out onto the tarmac," he said. "There were police cars everywhere, there were helicopters everywhere."

Wasiluski, who was in adjacent Terminal 1, said no one was told what was transpiring as they were moved outside. He said he found out there was a shooting after checking his Facebook feed and seeing posts from friends.

When he arrived at the airport around 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, Wasiluski said he noticed a large police presence, but still made it through security and to his gate.

"Right when I got to the airport, I saw six or seven police cars speeding toward Terminal 3," he said. Twenty minutes later, officials evacuated everyone, he said.

After spending about a half hour outside, Wasiluski said about 1,500 travelers were pulled back into Terminal 3 and were held there as officials re-check everyone's identification.

"That's going to be a nightmare," he said.

For more on the LAX terminal shooting, click here.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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