Suspected L.A. airport gunman planned 'suicide' mission: congressman

Reuters
Law enforcement officials talk to reporters at a press conference regarding a shooting incident that occurred the previous day at Los Angeles airport
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Law enforcement officials talk to reporters at a news conference regarding a shooting incident that occurred …

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) - The suspected gunman in last week's deadly attack at Los Angeles International Airport wrote a note saying he intended to die after killing at least one security officer, the chairman of a key U.S. security committee said on Sunday.

Twenty-three-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia also discussed weaknesses in airport security in the "suicide" note before Friday's attack, Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security told CNN.

Ciancia is accused of shooting dead a Transportation Security Administration officer, the first employee from the agency to die in the line of duty since it was created after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Airport police shot and wounded the gunman, ending the rampage.

"It's clearly one of those notes that reads, 'I'm going to kill people and I don't want to kill civilians,' with the idea that he's going to die at the end of this," McCaul, who said he had read the note, told CNN.

He said the note "talks a lot about killing TSA agents, and he said, 'If I just kill one, my mission is accomplished.'"

In a criminal complaint filed on Saturday, investigators said they found a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia in his bag that addressed TSA officials, writing that he wanted to "instill fear in your traitorous minds."

It was not immediately clear whether McCaul was referring to the same note mentioned in the complaint.

Investigators have declined to discuss a possible motive for Ciancia's reported grievance with the TSA.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, that Ciancia was carrying literature showing he believed that the agency was involved in a conspiracy to create a single global government could not be confirmed.

ASSAULT RIFLE IN BAG

Authorities charge that Ciancia walked into the airport's Terminal 3 on Friday morning, took out an assault rifle from his bag and opened fire, shooting dead Gerardo Hernandez, a 39-year-old TSA officer at a document checkpoint.

Ciancia, authorities charge, then went on to shoot and wound two other TSA employees and a passenger, prompting a panicked evacuation of the world's sixth-busiest airport.

The passenger, Brian Ludmer, described in local media reports as a 29-year-old high-school teacher, was awaiting further surgery on his fractured leg at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a spokesman for the hospital said on Sunday.

Another victim, who has not been identified, remains in critical condition, the spokesman said.

The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles has charged Ciancia with murdering a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport, crimes that carry the threat of execution if Ciancia is convicted.

McCaul suggested that the suspected shooter wanted to demonstrate what he viewed as lax security at airports.

"The other thing he wanted to talk about was how easy it is to bring a gun into an airport and do something just like he did," McCaul said of the note.

McCaul also said that police visited Ciancia's home after being alerted by worried relatives, but he had already left for the airport about 45 minutes before.

Ciancia's father, who lives in Pennsville Township, New Jersey, called local police before the shooting after Ciancia, who moved to California 18 months ago and lives in suburban Los Angeles, sent his brother a worrisome text message.

McCaul said police in Pennsville contacted Los Angeles police, who then "visited the suspect's home the morning of the shooting and missed him by literally, probably, 45 minutes."

Andy Neiman, an LAPD spokesman, said on Sunday that before the shooting began, officers went to Ciancia's home to make a "welfare check" and spoke to his roommates. They said they had seen Ciancia that morning before he left the house.

"His roommates had seen him and said he was in good shape and there was no additional follow-up," Neiman said. House Committee on Homeland Security said on Sunday.

In message on Twitter, the Los Angeles Airport Police Division warned passengers to expect delays on Sunday as the airport returns to "full operations."

(Reporting By Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and David Brunnstrom)

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