TSA agent killed in LAX shooting, suspect ID'd

Eric Pfeiffer
Yahoo News
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A Transportation Security Administration agent was killed and several more people wounded when a gunman opened fire on Friday morning at Los Angeles International Airport.

The FBI has identified the shooting suspect as 23-year-old Paul Ciancia. According to law enforcement officials, Ciancia was apprehended on the scene after opening fire at an airport security checkpoint. The TSA officer killed in the attack has been identified as 39-year-old Gerardo I. Hernandez.

Ciancia reportedly suffered a non-lethal gunshot wound and is being treated in a local hospital.

Personal details about Ciancia are still emerging. According to public records obtained by Yahoo News, Ciancia has a known address in Pennsville, N.J., about 15 miles from Wilmington, Del. The AP said Ciancia had contacted his brother by text message on Friday saying he was considering suicide. Additional reports indicate when Ciancia was detained by law enforcement he was carrying literature critical of the federal government and the TSA. Ciancia's father reached out to law enforcement officials in New Jersey who subsequently reached out to their counterparts in Los Angeles. Police in Los Angeles reportedly made an unsuccessful attempt to make contact with Ciancia before the shooting took place.

Ciancia entered LAX on Friday wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a handwritten note that said he "wanted to kill TSA and pigs," an official, who was briefed on the investigation and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told the AP.

The TSA confirmed the death of Hernandez in a statement obtained by Yahoo News: "Earlier this morning, a shooting occurred at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport. Multiple Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) were shot, one fatally. Additional details will be addressed by the FBI and local law enforcement who are investigating the shooting."

A spokesperson for the American Federation of Government Employees told Yahoo News that it is the first time a TSA officer has been killed in the line of duty in the agency's 12 year history. According to the spokesperson, the TSA officer was a "behavior detection officer" who was charged with spotting suspicious behavior in the airport.

LAX airport police Chief Patrick Gannon said at a press conference that police tracked the suspect "through the airport and engaged him in gunfire in Terminal 3" and were able to take him into custody.

Eyewitness Nick Pugh told local affiliate KNBC-TV he "heard a total of maybe eight to 10 shots fired in maybe two bursts. Everyone dropped to the floor and started crawling along the crowd.” And Tory Belecci, another eyewitness, said the suspect appeared to be carrying a rifle, possibly an assault rifle.

Gannon added, "We believe, at this point, that there was a lone shooter, that he was the only person armed in this incident.”

Jim Featherstone, acting Los Angeles fire chief, said during the press conference that officials had treated seven patients and transported six to area hospitals.

Authorities declined to provide any information during the press conference on the identities or conditions of those wounded.

The UCLA Medical Center released a statement saying it is currently treating three injured individuals from the incident. One arrived in critical condition and two were listed in fair condition, the hospital said.

President Barack Obama commented briefly on the shooting, telling reporters, "Obviously we’ve been monitoring and we’re concerned about it, but we’ll let law enforcement officials address this.”

During the press conference, Gannon said authorities had run through the "exact" scenario that played out at LAX on Friday, which helped them to respond effectively to the situation when it unfolded for real.

Officials said the authorities now have full control of security at LAX.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced a full ground stop until the incident has been officially resolved. Executive Director of Los Angeles World Airports Gina Marie Lindsey said in a Friday afternoon press conference that the ground stop is set to be removed at 4:00pm PST.

Access to the airport had been temporarily shutdown on Century Boulevard, the main road leading into LAX. In addition, all flights are reportedly delayed. The delays resulted in images of thousands of travelers stranded at LAX, caught in limbo as their scheduled flights were either delayed or cancelled entirely.

Another eyewitness, Brian Adamick, 43, told the Los Angeles Times that one TSA officer who was shot did not appear to be seriously injured. “I got shot, I’m fine," the unnamed TSA agent reportedly told Adamick and other witnesses on the scene. Remarkably, the agent reportedly reassured witnesses by saying he had been shot before and that the wound was not life-threatening.

Jason Sickles and Jay Hart contributed to this report

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