Gunman told police he acted alone in LAX shooting
LOS ANGELES — The 23-year-old charged as the gunman in the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport told authorities at the scene that he acted alone and had been dropped off by a friend, a law enforcement official who has been briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on 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 three other people, 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 official told the AP exclusively.
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 24-hour armed guard at the hospital, the official said. Ciancia was sedated for medical reasons, the official said, adding that one gunshot to the mouth blew a molar out of the suspect's jaw
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 who 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.
The letter also talked about “how easy it is to get a gun into the airport,” the law enforcement official said.
U.S. Rep. 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 Ciancia's actions show how difficult it is to protect travelers at a massive airport such as LAX.
The terminals are open and easily accessible to thousands of people who arrive at large sliding glass doors via a broad ring road that fronts the facility and is designed to move people along quickly.
“It's like a shopping mall outside the perimeter, it's almost like an open shopping mall,” McCaul said. “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.
Authorities believe the rifle used in the shooting was purchased in Los Angeles. Ciancia also had two additional handguns that he purchased in Los Angeles, but which weren't at the crime scene, a law enforcement official said. The official, who has been briefed on the investigation, was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The purchases themselves appeared legal, although authorities were still tracing them, and it's unclear if the shooter used his own identification or someone else's, the official said.
“He didn't buy them on the street. He didn't buy them on the Internet,” the official said. “He bought them from a licensed gun dealer — the rifle and the two handguns.”
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.
Two other people suffered injuries trying to evade the gunman, but weren't shot.
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 dead in New Kensington shooting
- Rossi: Blount brings back Steelers’ swagger
- Steelers are hoping to mirror Eagles’ full-bore, no-huddle offense
- Steelers re-sign Keisel to bolster depth on defensive line
- Run game not primary focal point for Steelers
- Pitt, Penn State face competition for ticket sales
- All Pittsburgh Public Schools students to get free lunches starting this year
- DEP seeks to extinguish coal fire threatening visibility for air traffic at Pittsburgh airport
- Pittsburgh restaurants vie for title at Taste of the Championships
- Connellsville’s blighted property ordinance overcomes first hurdle
- Grand jury that heard testimony from Ravenstahl aides ends work