Suspect in Los Angeles airport shooting told police he acted alone

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The 23-year-old man charged in a deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport told authorities at the scene that he acted alone and had been dropped off at the airport by a friend, a law enforcement official who has been briefed on the investigation said Sunday.

Authorities do not believe the friend knew that Paul Ciancia, the man charged in the attack, planned to open fire inside LAX’s Terminal 3 just moments later, killing one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding four others, including two more TSA workers, said the official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and requested anonymity.


SEE ALSO: LAX shooting suspect sent suicidal text


Mr. Ciancia was dropped off in a black Hyundai and was not a ticketed passenger. He was able to respond to investigators’ questions at the scene Friday, the source said.

Mr. Ciancia, an unemployed motorcycle mechanic who grew up in the small, blue-collar town of Pennsville, N.J., was shot four times and was under a 24-hour armed guard at a hospital, where he remaines heavily sedated, the law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Ciancia on Saturday with murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport. The charges could qualify him for the death penalty.

In court documents and interviews, authorities spelled out a chilling chain of events, saying Mr. Ciancia walked into the airport, pulled a .223-caliber assault rifle from his duffel bag and fired repeatedly at point-blank range at 39-year-old TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, killing him.

He then fired on at least two other uniformed TSA employees and an airline passenger, who all were wounded, before airport police shot him as panicked passengers cowered in stores and restaurants, authorities said.

It wasn’t clear why Mr. Ciancia targeted TSA officers, but what he left behind made it clear he intended to kill any of them that crossed his path, FBI Agent in Charge David L. Bowdich said.

The duffel bag contained a handwritten letter signed by Mr. Ciancia stating he had “made the conscious decision to try to kill” multiple TSA employees and that he wanted to “instill fear in their traitorous minds,” Agent Bowdich said.

Rep. Michael T. McCaul, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday he had seen the note and said that what Mr. Ciancia “wanted to talk about was how easy it is to bring a gun into an airport and do something just like he did.”

The attack underscores how difficult it is to protect travelers at a massive airport such as LAX, where the terminals are open and easily accessible to thousands of people who arrive at the terminals via a broad ring road that fronts the facility and is designed to move people along quickly.

“It’s very difficult to stop these types of attacks,” Mr. McCaul said. “And you know, it’s like a shopping mall outside the perimeter; it’s almost like an open shopping mall. So it’s very difficult to protect.”

The FBI has served a search warrant on a Sun Valley residence where Mr. Ciancia lived, Ari Dekofsky, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said Sunday. Agents are still interviewing people, she said.

Mr. 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 other two TSA officers wounded in the attack have been released from the hospital.

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