LAX gunman told police he acted alone in shooting

Reed Saxon/APLighted pylons at the Century Boulevard entrance to Los Angeles International Airport

The 23-year-old gunman charged in a deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport told authorities at the scene that he acted alone and had been dropped off at the airport by a friend, a law enforcement official who has been briefed on the investigation said Sunday.

Authorities do not believe the friend knew that Paul Ciancia, the man charged in the attack, planned to open fire inside LAX's Terminal 3 just moments later, killing one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding four others, including two more TSA workers, said the official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and requested anonymity.

Ciancia was dropped off in a black Hyundai and was not a ticketed passenger. He was able to respond to investigators' questions at the scene Friday, the source said.

Ciancia, an unemployed motorcycle mechanic who grew up in the small, blue-collar town of Pennsville, N.J., was shot four times and was under a 24-hour armed guard at the hospital, where he remained heavily sedated, the law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Federal prosecutors charged Ciancia on Saturday with murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport. The charges could qualify him for the death penalty.

In court documents and interviews, authorities spelled out a chilling chain of events, saying Ciancia walked into the airport, pulled a .223-caliber assault rifle from his duffel bag and fired repeatedly at point-blank range at 39-year-old TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, killing him.

He then fired on at least two other uniformed TSA employees and an airline passenger, who all were wounded, before airport police shot him as panicked passengers cowered in stores and restaurants, authorities said.

It wasn't clear why Ciancia targeted TSA officers, but what he left behind made it clear he intended to kill any of them that crossed his path, FBI Agent in Charge David L. Bowdich said.

The shooter's duffel bag contained a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia stating he'd “made the conscious decision to try to kill” multiple TSA employees and that he wanted to “instill fear in their traitorous minds,” Bowdich said.

Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday he had seen the note and said that Ciancia “wanted to talk about was how easy it is to bring a gun into an airport and do something just like he did.”

The attack underscores how difficult it is to protect travelers at a massive airport such as LAX, where the terminals are open and easily accessible to thousands of people who arrive at the terminals via a broad ring road that fronts the facility and is designed to move people along quickly.

“It's very difficult to stop these types of attacks,” McCaul said. “And you know, it's like a shopping mall outside the perimeter, it's almost like an open shopping mall. So it's very difficult to protect.”

The FBI has served a search warrant on a Sun Valley residence where Ciancia lived, Ari Dekofsky, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office, said Sunday. Agents are still interviewing people, she said.

Hernandez, a three-year veteran of the TSA, moved to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 15, married his sweetheart, Ana, on Valentine's Day in 1998 and had two children.

The other two TSA officers wounded in the attack have been released from the hospital.

Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas High School teacher, remained in fair condition at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the leg.

His family declined to comment and asked for privacy, hospital officials said.

The FBI was still looking into Ciancia's past, but investigators said they had not found evidence of previous crimes or any run-ins with the TSA. They said he had never applied for a job with the agency.

CaliforniaCalifornia NewsLAXLos Angeles International AirportPaul Ciancia

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

BART Ambassadors are being called on to assist riders in social situations that don’t require police force. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
BART formalizes ambassador program, prepares to hire more crisis intervention specialists

Public safety and police reform are key elements in campaigns of Board members Dufty and Simon

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

On Oct. 13, people lined up to vote early for the presidential election in Southlake, Texas. <ins>(Shutterstock)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Five things to watch for in the run-up to Nov. 3

Down-ballot races, as much as the presidency, will determine the future course of this nation

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

There are pandemic-era options for movie lovers who want to watch outdoors

Most Read