November 2, 2013

Suspected LAX gunman charged with murder

If convicted Paul Ciancia could face the death penalty.

By Tami Abdollah And Geoff Mulvihill
The Associated Press

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A Transportation Security Administration employee wears a black ribbon over his badge on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Los Angeles International Airport. A gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire at the airport on Friday, killing a Transportation Security Administration employee and wounding two other people in an attack that frightened passengers and disrupted flights nationwide.

The Associated Press

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This June, 2013 photo released by the Hernandez family Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, shows Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo Hernandez. Hernandez, 39, was shot to death and several others wounded by a gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport Friday

The Associated Press

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When searched by police, Ciancia had five 30-round magazines, and his bag contained “hundreds of rounds in 20-round boxes,” the law-enforcement official said.

Authorities identified the dead TSA officer as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, the first TSA official in the agency’s 12-year history to be killed in the line of duty.

In the messages, the younger Ciancia did not mention suicide or hurting others, but his father had heard from a friend that his son may have had a gun, said Allen Cummings, police chief in Pennsville, a small blue-collar town near the Delaware River where Ciancia grew up.

The police chief called Los Angeles police, who sent a patrol car to Ciancia’s apartment. There, two roommates said that they had seen him a day earlier and he had appeared to be fine.

But by that time, shots were already breaking out at the airport.

“There’s nothing we could do to stop him,” Cummings said.

The police chief said he never met Paul Ciancia Jr., but that he learned from his father that he attended a technical school in Florida, then moved to Los Angeles in 2012 hoping to get a job as a motorcycle mechanic. He was having trouble finding work.

“I’ve never dealt with the kids,” the chief said. “They were never on the police blotter, nothing like that.”

Ciancia graduated in December 2011 from Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Fla., said Tina Miller, a spokeswoman for Universal Technical Institute, the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that runs the school.

A basic motorcycle mechanic course takes about a year, she said.

After arriving in LA, Ciancia stayed on the couch of an acquaintance at the Rancho Los Feliz Apartment Homes for two weeks, apartment manager David Plaxen said. Ciancia was never on a lease.

The attack at the nation’s third-busiest airport caused flight delays and cancellations nationwide. Some Los Angeles-bound flights that were already in the air were diverted. As gunshots rang out, swarms of passengers screamed, dropped to the ground or ran for their lives.

Others fled into the terminal, taking refuge in coffee shops and lounges as the gunman shot his way toward them. The gunman seemed to ignore anyone except TSA targets.

Friends and neighbors remembered Hernandez as a doting father of two and a good neighbor who went door-to-door warning neighbors to be careful after his home in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles was burglarized.

In brief remarks outside the couple’s home north of downtown Los Angeles, his widow, Ana Hernandez, said Saturday that her husband came to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 15.

The couple, who married on Valentine’s Day in 1998, had two children.

Friday’s attack was not the first shooting at LAX. On July 4, 2002, a limousine driver opened fire at the airport’s El Al ticket counter, killing an airline employee and a person who was dropping off a friend at the terminal. Police killed the gunman.

Mulvihill reported from New Jersey. Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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