Three Dead in LA Airport Shooting

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 ◆ Three Dead in LA Airport Shooting


A gunman opened fire Thursday at Israel's El Al airline's ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport. Three people were killed, including the gunman, who was shot dead by an airline security guard, authorities said. Three other people were wounded, and thousands of people were evacuated from the international terminal. One person was arrested, police said. The shootout happened with security on high alert around the country for a possible terrorist attack on July Fourth. Israel's foreign ministry blamed terrorists but didn't offer any evidence to support his claim and his office declined further comment. "At this point it's too early to rule out anything," Matt McGlaughlin, an FBI spokesman, told reporters at the airport. But he said until more was known, the possibility could not be discounted. After the shooting, much of the airport was closed off and thousands of people were evacuated. Shortly before noon, the gunman approached someone at the terminal and opened fire, police said. Byron Tucker, a spokesman for Gov. Gray Davis, confirmed that an El Al security guard fatally shot the gunman. The guard survived the shooting, police said. "Like all Californians, I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn of today's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport," Davis said in a statement. "That it happened on the day on which we honor what America stands for liberty, security and diversity makes this particularly more tragic." "My heart, as well of those of all Californians, aches for the victims of this shooting and their families," he said. In addition to the three fatalities, three people were wounded at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, authorities said. A witness, Thad Weimlein, described an initial flurry of fire, followed by silence, then more gunfire. In a cellphone interview with CNN, Weimlein said he saw plainclothes policemen pulling out their guns and badges at the same time. At first, "a lot of people thought it was fireworks and a prank," Weimlein told CNN. "It was probably eight to 10 shots. People were hitting the floor." Investigators had no indication of the shooter's identity or nationality. After the shooting, traffic was stopped on the roadway for departing passengers but moving steadily along the roadway serving arrivals. Fire officials deployed a team to check for hazardous materials. El Al, based in Israel, is known as one of the most security-conscious airlines in the world. In Israel, foreign ministry spokeswoman Yaffa Ben-Ari issued a statement saying: "The terrorists deliberately chose the Fourth of July to carry out their crime on the soil of the United States." Last year, an Algerian who trained in terrorist camps financed by Osama bin Laden was convicted of plotting to blow up the airport at the height of the millennium holiday travel period. Ahmed Ressam had been arrested in Washington state on Dec. 14, 1999, while entering the country from Canada in a car with a trunk full of explosives.

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