LOS ANGELES (AP) - The man accused of opening fire
at Los Angeles International Airport, shooting employees and terrorizing
travelers, accomplished two of his goals, according to authorities:
kill a Transportation Security Administration officer and show how easy
it is to get a gun into an airport.
The deadly rampage left investigators to piece
together what motivated Paul Ciancia's hatred toward the agency formed
to make air travel safer after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, but could
ultimately lead to changes in the way airports are patrolled.
Ciancia was shot four times by airport police,
including in the mouth, and remains heavily sedated and under 24-hour
armed guard at the hospital, a law enforcement official told The
Associated Press on Sunday. The official was not authorized to speak
publicly on the case and requested anonymity.
The FBI said he had a handwritten letter, stating
that he made the conscious decision to try to kill multiple TSA officers
and "instill fear in your traitorous minds."
The unemployed motorcycle mechanic who recently
moved to Los Angeles from the small, blue-collar town of Pennsville,
N.J., had a friend drop him at LAX on Friday just moments before he
pulled a .223-caliber assault rifle from his duffel bag and opened fire,
killing one TSA officer and wounding three other people, including two
more TSA workers.
Officials do not believe that the friend knew of
the shooter's plans. Ciancia arrived at the airport in a black Hyundai
and was not a ticketed passenger.
Ciancia is facing charges of murder of a federal
officer and committing violence at an international airport. The charges
could qualify him for the death penalty. It was not immediately clear
when he would make a first court appearance given his medical condition.
In court documents and interviews, authorities
spelled out a chilling chain of events, saying Ciancia walked into the
airport's Terminal 3, pulled the assault rifle from his duffel bag and
fired repeatedly at 39-year-old TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez. He
went up an escalator, turned back to see Hernandez move and returned to
shoot him again, according to surveillance video reviewed by
He then fired on two other uniformed TSA employees
and an airline passenger, who all were wounded, as he moved methodically
through the security checkpoint to the passenger gate area before
airport police shot him as panicked travelers hid in stores and
It wasn't clear why Ciancia targeted TSA officers,
but what he left behind indicated he was willing to kill any of them
that crossed his path, authorities revealed.
The letter in his duffel bag refers to how Ciancia
believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches
and that he's a "pissed-off patriot" upset at former Department of
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"Black, white, yellow, brown, I don't
discriminate," the note read, according to a paraphrase by a law
enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official spoke on
the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak
The screed also mentioned "fiat currency" and
"NWO," possible references to the New World Order, a conspiracy theory
that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.
The letter also talked about "how easy it is to get a gun into the airport," the law enforcement official said.
When searched, the suspect had five 30-round magazines, and his bag contained hundreds more rounds in boxes.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the
House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN's State of the Union on
Sunday that 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
"It's like a shopping mall outside the perimeter, it's almost like an open shopping mall," McCaul said.
TSA Administrator John Pistole said the agency will
need to work with each airport's police agency "to see how we'll go
about in providing the best possible security."
The shooting temporarily halted traffic at the
nation's third-busiest airport, stranding thousands of passengers and
causing dozens of flights to be diverted to other airports. More than
1,500 flights and 167,000 passengers were affected nationwide, according
to the Los Angeles Times.
On Sunday, flights at the airport were back on
schedule and regular operations had resumed, LAX spokesman Marshall Lowe
told the newspaper.
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
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 TSA said the other two officers wounded in the
attack - James Speer, 54, and Tony Grigsby, 36 - were released from the
Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas High School teacher,
remained in fair condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and will
need surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg. 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
Associated Press writers Alicia Chang and Gillian Flaccus in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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