TSA officer slain at LA airport is honored

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Transportation Security Administration officer killed by a rampaging gunman at Los Angeles International Airport was honored Wednesday afternoon in a solemn ceremony at the airport.

Gerardo Hernandez was remembered by blue-shirted TSA colleagues who formed a procession out of Terminal 3, where he was shot. They were saluted by a line of police. City firefighters and members of other agencies also were on hand as a motorcade circled the airport's main road twice.

A special U.S. honor flag that has been used across the nation to honor fallen police and firefighters was flown in from Texas and escorted by an honor guard and bagpipers. The flag is expected to be used at Hernandez's funeral, although no date or details of the service have been announced.

Some passengers inside Terminal 3 put their hands over their hearts as the flag was carried through the terminal.

"I have real respect for what they do at the TSA," Ann Harris, of Dallas, told City News Service. "I never imagined they would have to give their lives like this."

Hernandez is the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty. The 39-year-old father of two was shot in an attack Friday that wounded two other TSA officers and a bystander. All are expected to recover.

"He was a great officer, exactly what we would expect in a TSA employee," Jason Pantages, assistant federal security director for TSA, said at the airport.

Pantages said TSA workers are dealing with the shooting.

"We want our officers to know it's OK to be scared or afraid," he said. "But they are going to come back and (do) the job we do every day."

Airports across the country are expected to hold a moment of silence for Hernandez at 9:20 a.m. PST Friday — the time that Hernandez was shot.

The man authorities say opened fire, Paul Ciancia, was wounded by airport police and remained hospitalized. The FBI has said that Ciancia, a 23-year-old unemployed motorcycle mechanic, 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."

Federal agents are investigating possible ties between Ciancia and a widely circulated conspiracy theory that the U.S. government is preparing to establish a totalitarian state.

Ciancia has been charged with first-degree murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport, but he will not appear in court until he is cleared by doctors.