Gunman targets TSA at LAX, kills agent

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Bradlee Locke – News Editor

Los Angeles, Calif. 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2, 2013

Droves of passengers and employees fled Terminal 3 at the Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning when a man armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle opened fire and specifically targeted Transportation Security Administration employees, killing one TSA agent and injuring several others.

The suspect, 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia of Los Angeles, reportedly stormed the terminal around 9:20 a.m. with 150 rounds of ammunition.

Police identified the slain victim early on as a TSA employee. His identity was later released as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. He is the first TSA officer to be killed in the line duty since the TSA began 12 years ago after 9/11.

According to the Associated Press, Ciancia approached one man and asked if he was TSA. When he shook his head no, Ciancia walked away. Authorities later found a hand-written note in Ciancia’s bag that said he wanted to kill TSA and “pigs.”

Ciancia entered the screening area on the ticketing level and pulled an assault rifle from his bag, said Sgt. Belinda Nettles, public information officer and chief’s adjutant of Los Angeles World Airports. After opening fire on employees in the area, he ran up the escalators through the terminal and eventually to the gate area. Airport police pursued Ciancia and exchanged fire.

Police shot the suspect in the head and leg and took him into custody. The Los Angeles Times reported that as of 8 a.m. Saturday, Ciancia remained in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The FBI said it believes Ciancia acted alone.

“I’m sure it’s really hard for the TSA because that’s where it all happened right at the entrance to the screening area,” Nettles said. “But everyone’s affected. We want to do whatever we can to help everybody out. That’s why all of the different agencies are here. It’s always a unified command.”

As a result of the shooting, a ground stop was immediately put in place that prevented any air traffic from leaving the airport. Between the shooting and midnight Friday, 826 flights and 99,200 passengers scheduled to depart the airport were affected, according to LAX’s official Twitter account. The ground stop was lifted at 4 p.m. Friday.

Nettles said she had not had time to reflect on the day’s events but asked for prayer for all those involved.

LAX tweeted around 10 p.m. Friday that the American Red Cross would stay overnight and that mental health providers were available to anyone who needed them. Another tweet said airport police personnel will wear the mourning band until Hernandez is buried.

Ticketing counters in Terminal 3 reopened Saturday morning, but the rest of the terminal remained closed for an FBI investigation.

Although no information has been released about how airport police and TSA will respond in the weeks to follow, students traveling home for Thanksgiving can expect tighter security.

 

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