Story Summary

Gunman opens fire at LAX, killing one TSA agent

A man armed with what police say was an assault rifle and carrying materials expressing anti-government sentiment opened fire Friday morning (Nov. 1, 2013) at Los Angeles International Airport, killing one person before being chased down himself, authorities said.

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SEA-TAC — There were 746 flights affected because of the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport Friday. Airports across the country felt the impact, including Sea-Tac.

A long day of chaos at LAX finally ended at Sea-Tac for Kirsten Parks.

“I am very tired,” said Parks.

seataccopsThe Seattle native said Friday night she was in LAX Terminal 4; the shooting was in Terminal 3.

“I was told it was chaos,” said Parks.

During the lockdown at LAX, thousands were stranded or grounded as all flights were halted.

“They wouldn’t let us leave the tarmac for about three hours,” Parks said.

Passenger Matt Popour said his plane was about 20 minutes from landing at LAX when his flight was diverted to San Diego.

“It takes you back to previous events that has happened over the years and you just hope everyone is OK when you land,” said Popour.

When the danger subsided, planes started moving  but the catch-up meant many travelers had to deal with very long delays.

“It’s not good because I was supposed to be working tonight and now I lose a day of work, too.” said passenger Anthony Collins.

Collins added that he is surprised the gunman was able to breach security.

“I fly all the time out of LAX that place is really well-secured; I don’t even understand,” said Collins.

TSA checkpoints at Sea-Tac were closely monitored all day and night and security was more visible throughout the airport.

“We make sure we have uniformed officers in the appropriate areas, TSA is doing the same thing,” said Sea-Tac spokesperson Perry Cooper.

“It’s a shame that people can’t live without fear,” said Parks. “First time in a long while I’m really glad to be home.”

By Scott Glover, Joe Tanfani and Abby Sewell
Los Angeles Times

PENNSVILLE TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The 23-year-old New Jersey man who authorities have identified as the gunman in the shooting rampage at LAX was a slightly built loner who was bullied at his private Catholic high school, a classmate recalled Friday.

“In four years, I never heard a word out of his mouth,” David Hamilton said of alleged shooter Paul Anthony Ciancia.


Suspect LAX shooter Paul Ciancia. (DMV photo provided by law enforcement sources / November 1, 2013)

“He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot,” said Hamilton, who graduated with Ciancia from Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., in 2008.  “I really don’t remember any one person who was close to him.”

Hamilton, an editorial assistant at a publishing firm in Philadelphia, said he recalled Ciancia being the victim of bullying, but did not remember any particular incidents.

“He was quiet and people would take advantage of that,” he said.

Hamilton said he thought Ciancia was in the school band because he often hung out in a hallway frequented by band members.

Law enforcement sources say Ciancia’s family called police in Pennsville Township, N.J., after a family member received a text message that led the family to believe he may be suicidal. Authorities in New Jersey contacted the LAPD for a welfare check.

Jeff Skidmore said he attended first-period band class with Ciancia who he thought played French horn. He said Ciancia wore black on “dress down” days when they were not required to wear their uniforms, and he seemed to have a speech impediment of some sort.  He said Ciancia did not seem to like being called on to read aloud in class as a result.

“He was definitely awkward,” Skidmore said. “He was always hanging his head and just shuffling along.”

He said he never saw Ciancia being bullied, but that he was very solitary.

“We left him alone,” Skidmore recalled. “He didn’t seem like he wanted to interact with anybody.”

School officials confirmed that Ciancia graduated from the high school in 2008.

Ciancia grew up in on a wooded street in Pennsville Township, about a mile from his father’s prospering auto body shop. His father was an associate member of the Fraternal Order of Police and a supporter of local Little League teams.

Neighbors said they would see Paul Jr. and his brother riding four-wheeled vehicles up and down their long driveway. But tragedy hit the family a few years ago, neighbors said, when Paul’s mother died after a long illness.

“This is an absolute tragedy, in the highest sense,” said Orlando Pagan, a police officer in neighboring Penns Grove. “It was a very good family. Whatever happened, it had nothing to do with their upbringing.”

“When I heard, I just got this feeling in the pit of my stomach,” said Gary Hankins, who lives a few doors down. “My heart goes out not only to Paul but to the people who were hurt in L.A. It just ripples down for all these families.”

Local News

LAX shooting causes delays, groundings at Sea-Tac

SEA-TAC INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — The shooting at the Los Angeles airport Friday had a ripple effect on airports around the country, including at Sea-Tac, where dozens of flights arrive and depart every day.

seataccopsLAX went into lockdown, halting all flights. There were some flight cancellations at Sea-Tac, and throughout the day most flights from Seattle to Los Angeles were grounded, with many passengers sitting on planes and waiting to eventually take off.

“Any flights headed to LAX will be held on the ground here until they get the OK that they can have a place to land, a place to park once they get to L.A.,” said Perry Cooper, spokesman for Sea-Tac. It took a few hours before the mandatory grounding was lifted.

Lillian Myer was on one of the last flights to leave Los Angeles for Seattle, when the news came that a gunman opened fire on TSA agents in the  LAX terminal. Her flight made it to Seattle on time.

“We started getting text messages regarding the incident that had happened, and it was incredibly scary,” said Myer. “We felt very lucky to be on board.”

Her flight made in into Seattle on time. The passengers flying out of Seattle saw an apparent increase in security, with armed guards at every checkpoint.

“It’s basically a high-visibility situation for us,” said Cooper. “In a lot of normal situations, those people may be there already, but they may be in a plain-clothes situation. This just becomes a situation where we take those folks and make them more visible to the public.”

LOS ANGELES (CNN) — A man armed with what police say was an assault rifle and carrying materials expressing anti-government sentiment opened fire Friday morning at Los Angeles International Airport, killing one person before being chased down himself, authorities said.

Eyewitnesses said the suspect asked people, “Hey, are you TSA?” — the acronym for the Transportation Security Administration — according to a federal law enforcement official. If they said “no,” he would move on.

ShootingIn the aftermath of the shooting, investigators found information on the suspect expressing not just anti-federal government sentiment but also anger at the TSA specifically, according to the federal law enforcement official.

By then, a TSA officer was dead — the first employee of that relatively new agency to be killed in the line of duty, according to American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox.

Two others were also shot, FBI special agent in charge David Bowdich said. At least one of them was a TSA employee who was shot in the leg, according to a former Los Angeles Police Department ranking officer who was briefed by investigators.

Transportation Security Administration officials Friday night identified the agent killed in a rampage as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. Officials provided no details about Hernandez.

The suspected gunman himself was detained after being shot in the chest multiple times, according to an intelligence source briefed by Los Angeles police.

He was identified later by the FBI as Paul Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old from Los Angeles. Law enforcement sources told CNN that, in addition to the southern California city, the suspect also had an address in New Jersey.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center said that, hours after the incident, it received three male victims — one in critical condition and two in fair condition. One of the two in fair condition suffered gunshot wounds, another suffered an unspecified injury, said Dr. Lynne McCullough, an emergency physician at the Los Angeles hospital.

Two patients were transported to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, said David Klurad, a trauma surgeon there.

One was what Klurad described as a “middle-aged” person with minor injuries from being shot in the shoulder. The other had no signs of life when he arrived at the hospital, the surgeon added. It wasn’t known if this person was the slain TSA officer.

The episode caused what airport police Chief Patrick Gannon, who had said the shooter used an “assault rifle,” described as a “large amount of chaos.” People ran for their lives and took shelter wherever they could as authorities pursued the gunman.

Chuck Ocheret was among those in the busy airport when he heard two “loud pops.”

“Then I heard this mad rush of people, and there was a stampede of people coming from this direction,” Ocheret told CNN. “Nobody really knew what was going on.”

Still, by Friday afternoon, authorities indicated the worst should be over. Gannon noted it is believed there was only one shooter.

Source: Gunman had 3 magazines for weapon

An otherwise normal day in the airport’s Terminal 3 turned upside down around 9:20 a.m., as the suspect approached a checkpoint.

There, he “pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire,” Gannon said.

The suspect didn’t stop there. Equipped with three magazines for his weapon, according to the intelligence source briefed by Los Angeles police, he began running down Terminal 3.

Traveler Vernon Cardenas was sitting at one end of the terminal, when he heard noise and saw a mass of people running toward him. He and others bolted through a kicked-open exit door and ran onto the tarmac — believing then it was safer there — even with then still-arriving and departing jetliners — than in the concourse above.

The circular area where Cardenas had been is where the bloodshed finally ended with the gunman’s shooting by law enforcement, according to the intelligence source.

Actor Tim Daly said that when he was eventually led out of the the Virgin America first-class lounge, he saw where the incident came to a head around Gates 35 and 36. After being told not to step on any blood or glass, Daly spotted a high-powered rifle on the ground along with three magazines, a pair of black shoes and several bags strewn across the floor.

The episode soon rendered one of the world’s busiest airports a ghost town. Large portions were evacuated as authorities ordered a “ground stop” for arriving places, said police and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Almost every flight scheduled to leave the airport on Friday will be “significantly late,” said Gina Marie Lindsay, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.

The area around the airport was jammed with cars as police shut down access to the airport.

The airport was still accepting incoming flights, but doing so at less than half the normal rate, Lindsay said.

Police at Los Angeles International Airport announced around 2 p.m. over a loudspeaker that they were going to start allowing workers back into the airport so operations such as processing incoming and outbound flights could resume.

Robert Perez, who was getting ready to take a Virgin Air flight, was taking a nap in the terminal when pandemonium erupted, he told CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS.

“I heard a popping sound, and everybody was diving for cover,” Perez told the station. “The TSA said there was a shooting in the terminal and evacuate the building.”

At least 100 people came down a staircase.

Recalled Perez: “Everybody started to panic.”

‘Mayhem is the best I can describe it’

Fox Sports national columnist Bill Reiter was also at the airport during the gunfire. “After the initial burst of gunfire and hiding, people started jumping over one another, jumping off chairs, pushing each other. Chaos & fear,” he said on his Twitter account.

The passengers were directed to board a bus and were taken to a smaller terminal, Perez told the affiliate.

Alex Neumann was at a food court, waiting to travel to Miami, when the incident unfolded. He said Terminal 2 was put into lockdown.

“People were running and people getting knocked down. There was luggage everywhere,” Neumann said. “Mayhem is the best I can describe it.”

Several police officers moved about the airport with guns drawn, he said. KCAL showed live video of three officers with rifles to their shoulders inspecting parked cars in an open-air parking lot.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was assisting, the department said Friday on Twitter.

At one point, firefighters lay tarps on the street at the airport, apparently for triage. Several ambulances were at the airport, and at least one person was loaded into one.

A U.S. intelligence official “doesn’t see any indications of terrorism” in Friday’s shooting. The intelligence community has been in “constant contact with a range of law enforcement authorities,” according to the official.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the shooting and will continue to be updated, spokesman Jay Carney said. Obama later addressed the issue later while meeting with Iraq’s prime minister, saying he was concerned about the shooting.

Authorities were interviewing about 100 witness, the intelligence source said.

A leader of the union representing TSA officers deplored the incident.

“We are sickened by reports of today’s shooting,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.