2013 Los Angeles International Airport shooting
|2013 Los Angeles International Airport shooting|
|Location||Terminal 3, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX),
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Date||November 1, 2013
c. 9:18 a.m.–9:25 a.m. (PDT)
|Weapons||.223-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P-15|
|7 (4 from gunfire, including the perpetrator)|
|Paul Anthony Ciancia|
On November 1, 2013, a shooting occurred at around 9:20 a.m. PDT in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles International Airport. Paul Anthony Ciancia, aged 23, has been accused of opening fire with a rifle, killing a U.S. government Transportation Security Administration officer and injuring several other people.
On the morning of Friday, November 1, 2013, Ciancia allegedly entered Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport after being dropped off there by a roommate. He was carrying a bag filled with a semiautomatic, .223-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle, five 30-round magazines, and hundreds of additional rounds of ammunition contained in boxes. Walking up to a TSA checkpoint, he pulled the rifle out of the bag and opened fire, shooting TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez in the chest "at point-blank range". He then went up an escalator, but returned to the checkpoint and shot Hernandez again, apparently after seeing him move.
Ciancia then allegedly moved up the escalator into the TSA screening area, passed the checkpoint area, and moved farther into the secure airside area of the terminal. At the time, many people fled by going into the concourse area or through doors leading into the airfield. Entering the concourse area, the gunman continued firing, wounding two TSA agents and a male civilian. People hiding in the concourse area then fled the terminal through street exits. One witness, interviewed on CNN, said the gunman was walking, not running, down the terminal's concourse, and actor Tim Daly reported hearing shooting while in the Virgin America first-class lounge. According to several witnesses, the gunman repeatedly asked civilians if they were TSA officers and then moved on without shooting when they said no. At 9:20 a.m., the first calls to 9-1-1 were made, followed by the arrival of the first LAX officers two minutes later.
Ciancia made it as far as the end of the terminal in the food court, where LAX police officers cornered the suspect and engaged him in a gunfight. He was wounded four times by gunshots and captured before being transported via ambulance to a nearby trauma hospital. Witnesses saw a rifle with three magazines nearby on the floor of the waiting area near gates 35 and 36. Police were unsure whether the terminal was safe for paramedics to enter, and as a result Hernandez lay wounded about 20 feet from an exit without medical attention for 33 minutes. He bled out from his gunshot wounds before being put in a wheelchair and escorted out of the terminal. He was eventually declared dead at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The gunman shot TSA Officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, age 39, at the airport. Hernandez was pronounced dead after arriving at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, although coroner officials asserted that he was dead within a few minutes of getting shot. Hernandez is the first TSA officer in the twelve-year history of the agency to have been killed on the job. A behavior detection officer, Hernandez had immigrated to the United States from El Salvador at age 15. According to an autopsy report, Hernandez was shot 12 times, with his heart being grazed several times and his bladder and intestines pierced. More than 40 bullet fragments were also lodged in his body, and he died within two to five minutes after being shot.
Seven victims were treated at the scene. Three victims were wounded by gunfire, including two TSA officers, identified as 54-year-old James Speer and 36-year-old Tony Grigsby; Grigsby was shot in the foot. The third shooting victim was 29-year-old Brian Ludmer, a schoolteacher from Lake Forest, Illinois, who was shot in the leg. Six victims were transported to area hospitals, including three men, two of whom had suffered gunshot wounds, who were treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Some of the injuries were confirmed to have been caused by other factors, not gunshot wounds.
Ciancia was shot four times, including wounds in the face and leg, by law enforcement in the food court area of Terminal 3 and was in critical condition. The officers kicked the rifle away from him. He was then transported to a local trauma hospital via ambulance. Video from KCAL-TV shows Ciancia brought into the hospital from an ambulance, surrounded by multiple police officers, while handcuffed to a gurney.
The sole suspect is Paul Anthony Ciancia, age 23, an unemployed car mechanic who lived in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles. He grew up in Pennsville, New Jersey, and graduated from Salesianum School in 2008. Ciancia was carrying a note stating that he "wanted to kill TSA" and described them as "pigs". It also mentioned "fiat currency" and "NWO", the latter likely being a reference to the New World Order conspiracy theory. On the day of the shooting and before Ciancia was identified as the suspect, the LAPD went to his residence when concerned family members wanted to file a missing persons report after not having heard from him after repeated attempts to make contact. Ciancia was not at home at the time and his roommates told them that he had been there earlier in the day. The police left and could not file a report, because they had confirmation where he was. Ciancia had talked about taking his own life a few days earlier. According to reports, on the day of the shooting, Ciancia burst into the room of an unidentified roommate and demanded him to drive him to the airport immediately, and the roommate, not sensing any intention of committing violence, agreed to do so. Days prior to the shooting, Ciancia had begun asking for a ride to the airport so he could fly back to New Jersey, claiming that his father was ill.
Los Angeles Airport Police evacuated several terminals and searched for any other possible suspects. They searched in cars with armed officers and a bomb-sniffing dog at the nearby parking garages that are connected to airport terminals by pedestrian bridges. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all outbound flights at the airport. Runways 24L and 24R were shut down. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 were shut down and the 300 passengers were evacuated from these terminals to the Tom Bradley International Terminal for questioning, and then were re-screened as they exited the international terminal. Airlines diverted some flights to other airports in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Most were directed to Ontario International Airport, and others to Long Beach Airport. Most of the diverted flights were originally scheduled to taxi to gates at Terminals 1, 2, and 3. Over 1,500 flights and 171,000 passengers were affected by the diverted flights.
Later that afternoon, Ciancia's family released a statement, saying that they were "shocked and numbed" by his actions and also expressing their sympathies to the family of Gerardo Hernandez, and also to the wounded victims.
Security and emergency response
In the wake of the shooting, ongoing debates over the effectiveness of airport security were reignited, with several suggestions being made about arming TSA officers with guns. In response to these suggestions, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole commented, "[Officer safety] is something we have dealt with really since the standup of TSA, knowing that in many respects TSA employees are the first line of defense when it comes to airport security particularly. And so given this tragedy, we will obviously look at and review our policies with airport police both here at LAX and of course around the country." Tom Ridge, the former secretary for the United States Department of Homeland Security, criticized the suggestion of arming TSA officers, calling it a "big mistake" and saying, "You have literally hundreds and hundreds of armed police officers roaming every major airport in America. And I don't think arming another 40 or 50 or 60 thousand people ... would have prevented this incident from happening."
An investigation by several agencies has been opened to determine whether paramedics should have been allowed inside the terminal much earlier to aid Hernandez and the other wounded victims. The Los Angeles Police Department has also opened an investigation into an officer who allegedly improperly told emergency responders that Hernandez was dead when he was checked five minutes after the shooting ended.
On January 22, 2014, it was revealed that the two unarmed officers assigned to the area had gone on a break at the time of the shooting, without carrying out the requirement of informing a dispatcher, with one being at the bathroom of an adjacent terminal. In response to the new details, airport police union chief Marshall McClain stated that the two officers were still capable of quickly responding to the shooting, adding, "I want to make sure that in any terminal, there's always somebody there, that a bathroom break doesn't result in somebody, even for a few minutes, being out of the action."
On March 18, 2014, a released 83-page report highlighted flaws in various divisions and current systems of the airport, adding that emergency response had been hindered by "communication problems and poor coordination". The report also laid out an estimated 50 recommendations, including one for training airport police to be trained in tactical medicine and for training paramedics to enter more dangerous zones earlier with the protection of law enforcement. In addition, it was critical of the current airport emergency management program, saying that it was "not well-defined or widely understood across the agency, or perhaps even respected". It was also reported that at the time of the shooting, a union representing the airport's lower-level employees was not trained for an evacuation and did not know what to do or how to help passengers. Jeffrey David Cox, Sr., the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, called the lack of coordination "absolutely unacceptable" and criticized the report as being incomplete and failing to note the two airport officers who were not on their shifts at the time of the shooting.
On June 6, 2014, Rep. Richard Hudson (R, NC-8) introduced the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2014 (H.R. 4802; 113th Congress) in response to the findings about events of the shooting. The bill would direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Transportation Security Administration, to undertake a variety of activities aimed at enhancing security at airports where TSA performs or oversees security-related activities. The bill would require TSA to verify that all such airports have plans in place for responding to security threats and to provide technical assistance as necessary to improve such plans. H.R. 4802 also would require TSA to disseminate information on best practices for addressing security threats and ensure that all screening personnel have received training in how to handle potential shooting threats. Finally, H.R. 4802 would require the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Cybersecurity and Communications to report to the Congress on the capacity of law enforcement, fire, and medical response teams to communicate and respond to security threats at airports. It passed in the House on July 22, 2014.
Charges and prosecution
On November 2, 2013, federal prosecutors charged Ciancia with murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport. Ciancia also faces additional federal and/or state charges, including attempted murder in relation to the two men who were wounded by gunfire. On November 19, 2013, Ciancia was released from the hospital after recovering from his gunshot wounds, and was taken into custody by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service.
On December 5, 2013, Ciancia appeared for the first time in court, where he was remanded without bail because he posed a threat to the community. On December 17, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Ciancia on 11 counts, including first-degree murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
On December 26, 2013, Ciancia pled not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder. On March 3, 2014, a judge ordered that Ciancia be moved from a treatment facility at a San Bernardino County jail to a Federal detention facility in Los Angeles. After first being set for trial on February 11, 2014, and August 11, 2014, he will now be tried on December 8, 2014.
A decision from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding whether the federal government will seek the death penalty against Ciancia is expected to be given to prosecutors by mid-November. On January 2, 2015, an article on the Los Angeles Times website reported that the U.S. Attorney General's office would be seeking the death penalty against Ciancia.
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