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Man dead after Houston airport shooting sparks panic

By Amanda Orr

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A man sparked a panic at a busy Houston airport terminal on Thursday when he pulled out a gun and shot at the ceiling, then either shot himself or was killed by a security officer who confronted him.

Houston police spokesman Kese Smith said the man who died was 30 years old, but did not identify him. No other people were injured or killed in the incident, he said.

Smith said the man fired at least one shot at the ceiling. He was then confronted by a Homeland Security officer nearby, who fired his weapon.

"The Homeland Security Officer and the suspect fired shots simultaneously. The suspect was struck and (was) treated by responding paramedics who pronounced him dead in an ambulance," Houston police said in a statement.

It was not clear if the man died from a self-inflicted gunshot or from one or more shots fired by the security officer.

Passengers said people ran and dived for cover during the shooting at one of the nation's busiest airports. Pat Price, a passenger at the terminal who was eating lunch at the food court, said he was only about 50 yards (meters) away.

"We heard a few what turned out to be shots really loud... Myself and about 10 people dove on top of each other in the corner. There was big-time panic," he said.

Price said people were already jittery after the Boston Marathon bombings and passengers were running for cover everywhere. "We were just looking for a place to hide," he said.

The incident at Terminal B of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport prompted a security lockdown and a temporary suspension of flights in and out of the terminal by the Federal Aviation Administration. The terminal was later reopened for departing flights.

United Airlines said it requested the ground stop of flights because its United Express flights use that terminal.

The shooting happened just a day before the gun rights organization National Rifle Association (NRA) begins its annual conference in Houston. Thousands of advocates for the right to bear arms are expected to attend.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba, Andrea Lorenz, Amanda Orr, Jim Forsyth and Corrie MacLaggan; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom)

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