LAX shooting: Suspect Ciancia was suicidal, father says
by Brian Sumers
A reportedly suicidal man carrying an assault rifle stormed into a Los Angeles International Airport terminal on Friday, killing a Transportation Safety Administration agent and wounding six other people until police officers critically wounded him.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, reportedly carried a handwritten rant about killing TSA workers, and carried dozens of rounds of ammunition.
“There were more than 100 rounds that literally could have killed everybody in that terminal,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The TSA agent, identified late Friday as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, was the first to die in the agency's history.
FBI and Los Angeles Airport police officials released few details about the gunman's intentions and did not confirm reports he was suicidal.
A law enforcement official, who was briefed at LAX on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press that Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a note that said he “wanted to kill TSA and pigs.” The official requested anonymity.
According to a doctor who treated one of the victims, the gunman asked people in the terminal if they were TSA workers.
Ciancia, a U.S. citizen and Los Angeles resident with strong anti-government views, is a native of New Jersey, with residences in Pennsville and Sea Island City.
Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings told The Associated Press that Ciancia's father called him early Friday afternoon saying one of his children had received a text message from Ciancia “in reference to him taking his own life.” Cummings said the father asked him for help to find Ciancia.
Cummings said he called Los Angeles police, who sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. His two roommates said they saw him Thursday and he was fine, the AP said.
Calls to the father's auto body shop, Salem County Auto Repair, in Pennsville, went unanswered and unreturned.
Police in Los Angeles said the gunman acted alone. Although some early reports incorrectly indicated he had been killed, the gunman was critically injured and taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. Also there were two victims in fair condition, one whom had been shot and the another who was otherwise injured.
The only fatal victim of the rampage was a man in his 40s who died of gunshot wounds at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance at 11 a.m., coroner's officials said.
FBI Special Agent David Bowdich confirmed that man was a TSA worker. A TSA union official confirmed the deceased man was an agent who recently started working at LAX. His name was not released.
Another TSA employee was among the injured, Bowdich said.
In all, Fire Department officials reported that six people were taken to area hospitals. One other person also was injured.
Dr. David Plurad of County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said the deceased TSA worker had no vital signs at the airport, and arrived at the hospital without a heart beat or pulse. Emergency room doctors worked on him for an hour before pronouncing him dead. The man had wounds in his chest and abdomen, but might have been shot just once. The bullet apparently fragmented inside his body, causing major internal injuries. He suffered extensive blood loss.
Another victim treated at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center was struck in the shoulder, either once or twice. Plurad described his injury as a flesh wound, and said the man would be released later Friday.
Police officials said they were early in the investigation into the shooting rampage, which they would be extensive.
“We are still trying to determine how he got in there,” Bowdich said. “We are still getting to the bottom of it.”
Los Angeles World Airports Police Chief Patrick Gannon said Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 at 9:20 a.m., pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and opened fire. He then moved into the screening area and kept shooting.
Airport police officers responded within seconds, tracked the man through the airport, caught up with him at the rear of the terminal and “engaged him.” An officer-involved shooting occurred and the man was taken into custody, Gannon said.
“This individual was shooting as he went into the terminal,” Gannon said. “The officers didn't hesitate. They went after this individual and they confronted this individual in our airport. Unfortunately, it involved an officer-involved shooting, but that was what needed to be done and that was heroic.”
Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said in a statement that the department's highly trained officers “did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
The gunfire virtually shut down the airport, forcing the evacuation of the Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Some passengers were ushered onto the tarmac and eventually onto buses.
“There were shots fired and everyone jumped to the ground — hiding and scrambling under the tables,” said Audrey Henry, looking down and noticing she was missing a shoe. “People started flooding through the screening gates and we just started running and we went down onto the tarmac.”
Leaving Terminal 3, Henry said she left her other shoe at the security checkpoint while preparing to fly to Chicago on Virgin America. She said she was about 100 feet from the shooter.
“I'm shaking,” Henry said. “My mouth is dry. I'm having hot flashes.”
Henry's husband, Mark, said it was terrifying.
“We just all hit the deck,” Mark Henry said. “It was real obvious what was going on.”
Zelda Roland, a 27-year-old Los Angeles resident, was in Terminal 3, standing next to a news kiosk when she heard the gun blasts. She stepped behind the newsstand and pulled her suitcase close. She said people started walking and running toward her.
“They looked at me and said, ‘just run,' ” she said. “I ditched my suitcase and just started running.”
The stampede moved onto the tarmac, and then into Terminal 2, where people were not yet aware of the drama unfolding. Eventually, everybody was corralled into Terminal 1.
The next thing Roland knew, she and a throng of people were wandering along Sepulveda Boulevard.
“It was like a scene out of ‘Night of the Living Dead,' ” she said. “A lot of people, surprisingly, were trying to get into the airport and catch flights. … It was just kind of a mess.”
Nick Pugh, 46, called the scene in Terminal 3 chaotic.
“Everybody dropped to the ground,” Pugh said. “Almost instantly, people starting wiggling around like army men.”
Then, Pugh and others got out of the area.
“I was scared,” he said. “There was adrenaline, you know? You run like hell.”
Almost immediately, social media erupted with Tweets and Facebook posts about the chaos.
“After initial burst of gunfire and hiding, people started jumping over one another, jumping off chairs and hiding, pushing,” Fox sports columnist Bill Reiter tweeted from the terminal.
“Heard gunshots then everyone starting running for the door. Not sure if anyone was hurt,” tweeted Tory Bellecci, star of Discovery Channel's “MythBusters.”
Dozens of Los Angeles police officers, along with officers from Hawthorne, El Segundo and other departments, rushed into the airport.
As LAX operations were shut down, flights from other airports destined for Los Angeles were held up. A couple flights were diverted to LA/Ontario International Airport. LAX reported on Twitter: “Other than arriving flights, flight operations have been temporarily held.” Federal Aviation Administration officials lifted the hold at 4 p.m.
Passengers waiting for outgoing flights either left the airport or remained in terminals. Some hotels near LAX were busy as people with delayed flights began to check in for an overnight stay.
“We're at high occupancy right now,” said a front desk clerk at Courtyard by Marriott LAX about noon Friday.
Outside the airport, traffic was brought to a standstill on streets. Some people on Century and Sepulveda boulevards abandoned their cars and walked toward LAX with their luggage. The CHP shut down exits for the airport on the 105 and 405 freeways.
By late afternoon, LAX officials were working to get employees back into their positions to slowly resume operations.
“It is a tremendous testament that today, a day that started with horrific attacks, is ending with Los Angeles International Airport beginning to open,” Mayor Garcetti said.
Los Angeles World Airports General Manager Gina Marie Lindsey said 746 flights were affected. She encouraged passengers to check with their airline before coming to the airport for their flights and to follow the Twitter account @lax_official for up-to-date information on the airport.
The TSA Found 29 Firearms at Airports This Week, Before the LAX Shooting
Guns at airports, even loaded ones, are more common than you may think.
by Matt Berman
Shots broke out at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning, wounding multiple people including at least one Transportation Security Administration officer who reportedly has died. The scene is obviously horrific, and it's the exact sort of nightmare that every traveler dreads to face.
But, it turns out, loaded weapons get stopped at security checkpoints all the time.
Over the last week, the TSA discovered 29 firearms—27 of which were loaded. the TSA, (The breakdown of what kinds of guns were found is on the site.)
All of this of course happened before an armed suspect made it into LAX on Friday. And the last week wasn't an outlier. The week before, 39 firearms were discovered. Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 15, the TSA collected 84 loaded arms.
Oh, and in 2012 as a whole, airport screeners found more than 1,500 guns at checkpoints. That was up from a total of 1,320 guns in 2011. Of course, not everyone who brought a gun to an airport intended to do harm. But the sheer number of firearms points to a potential for violence far greater than most people may think.
American airports have never been gun-free. They have only been largely violence-free because of the TSA.