NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Law enforcement officials on Friday identified Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J., as the man believed to have opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 3, fatally shooting a Transportation Security Administration agent and wounding two others.
CBS News’ John Miller said the suspect entered Terminal 3 wearing camouflage and opened fire around 9:20 a.m. local time. Five people, including the gunman, were taken to the hospital, police said.
This is the first time a TSA agent has been killed in the line of duty in its 12-year history, according to the union that represents TSA agents.
The TSA identified the agent killed in the shooting as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39.
The suspect was carrying a bag containing a handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and “pigs,” according to one of the officials, who was briefed at LAX on the investigation.
One eyewitness said the shooter was single-minded in his mission.
“He saw me cowering there. He had his gun and he looked at me and he said, ‘TSA?’ And I just shook my head and he kept going,” a man said.
Ciancia was shot four times in the mouth and leg and was listed in stable condition on arrival at the hospital, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.
Officials said Friday evening that the shooting could have turned out much worse.
“There were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal today,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
Hernandez was a behavioral detection officer, said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Such officers are stationed throughout the airport, looking for suspicious behavior, he said.
As Young reported, the terminal was under full-scale evacuation after the gunman shot his way past a security checkpoint and kept shooting as he moved deeper into the terminal.
Would-be air travelers fled in all directions, with some hiding in bathroom stalls to escape the gunfire.
The Port Authority on Friday afternoon stepped up security at area airports following the deadly shooting.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, there was no obvious show of force and Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday afternoon. But the Port Authority said patrols have been increased because of the LAX shooting incident.
The same was the case at LaGuardia Airport, where CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported that armed national guardsmen were patrolling as they normally do.
Many flyers taking off Friday afternoon learned of the shooting just as they were getting ready to board planes.
“That it’s TSA that’s a little nerve-wracking but I fly a lot,” a traveler said.
“It’s just sad and you’re thinking places are safe and…they’re not. And you always worry,” another flyer said.
“There are some things you have no control over, we just have to trust God to take care of us,” a traveler added.
The Port Authority released the following statement Friday:
“The Port Authority Police has increased patrols at the agency’s airports and checkpoints in the wake of this afternoon’s shooting at a TSA checkpoint at LAX Airport. Safety and security of our facilities and the millions of people we serve daily are always of the utmost concern and our police and staff remain vigilant against any possible threats. Our stepped up patrols will not impact flight operations, however, passengers should check with their individual carriers for any delays that may be a result of the grounded activity at LAX.”
The suspect pulled an assault rifle out of his bag, opened fire in the terminal and then headed to the TSA screening area, according to Chief Patrick Gannon of Los Angeles World Airports.
“He proceeded up into the screening area, where TSA screeners are, and continued shooting,” Gannon said.
Responding officers traded shots with the suspect and were able to take him into custody, Gannon said.
“As you can imagine, a large amount of chaos took place in this entire incident,” he said.
One victim was released from the hospital Friday evening.
An LAPD bomb squad and tactical team swept the terminal and evaluating baggage.
The FBI is leading the investigation into the shooting.
SHOOTING SUSPECT’S FATHER WORRIED ABOUT SON
A New Jersey police chief says the Los Angeles airport shooting suspect had apparently made references to suicide.
Pennsville Chief Allen Cummings says Paul Ciancia’s father called him early Friday afternoon saying another of his children had received a text message from the suspect “in reference to him taking his own life.”
Cummings says the elder Ciancia asked him for help in locating Paul, according to Cummings. The chief says he called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia’s apartment.
There, two roommates said they had seen him Thursday and that he was fine.
Cummings says he told Ciancia’s father that because of the son’s age, he couldn’t take a missing persons report. He says his department had no dealings with the younger Paul Ciancia.
The Pennsville Police Department has had no dealings with the younger Ciancia, Cummings said. He and neighbors described the Ciancias as a good, nice family.
“They’re upset. I mean, this is a shock to them, it’s a shock to our community. At this point right now, the FBI in California and the FBI here in New jersey, they’re working together as a team,” Cummings told reporters Friday night.
The suspect’s father has been involved with Pennsville’s Fraternal Order of Police, said neighbor Orlando Pagan, a lieutenant in nearby Penns Grove. He didn’t provide details on his involvement.
Outside the father’s home Friday in Pennsville – across the Delaware River from Wilmington, Del. – a police cruiser blocked the long driveway to the home, which isn’t visible from the road. Phone calls weren’t answered, and efforts to reach siblings were also unsuccessful.
Orlando Pagan’s 17-year-old son Josh said that he would sometimes encounter Ciancia at orthodontist appointments, but that it had been at least two years since the last one.
“He was never weird toward me. He never gave me any weird vibes,” he said, adding that in the 10 years he’s lived across the street from the Ciancia family “they’ve been nothing but nice to us.”
AIR TRAVEL CRIPPLED IN LA
LAX is the third busiest airport in the nation.
Terminals 1 and 2 slowly reopened Friday evening, after hours of being closed down. Terminal 3 will likely be closed for days as the investigation into the shooting continues, CBS2 LA reported Dave Lopez reported.
Employees were being let back into two closed terminals, and taxis and buses were again running on a loop through the airport. In addition, the FAA has dropped its “ground stop” order, meaning airliners in other cities are allowed to resume flying to LAX. Nearly 200 flights were cancelled and others were diverted.
Airport officials say 746 flights nationwide were affected by the incident. Some 46 were diverted, and others were held at LAX or at the originating airport.
On Friday evening, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a statement offering its condolences to the TSA agent killed in the attack.
“The Department of Homeland Security, including TSA, will continue to work closely with the FBI, Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate this heinous crime. As always, our security posture, which at all times includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people,” the statement read in part.
“We are sickened by reports of today’s shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport,” Transportation Security Administration Union Leader J. David Cox Sr. said. “Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers and Transportation Security Officers killed or injured in this heinous act. Thank you to all of our brave TSOs who put their lives on the line every day to keep the flying public safe.”
President Barack Obama called the head of the TSA to express his condolences to the families and friends of the TSA officer who was shot and killed and the two other officers who were wounded Friday.
Obama also spoke with Mayor Garcetti to express his gratitude for those who responded to the shooting.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier the president’s homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, briefed Obama on the incident.
LAX WITNESSES DESCRIBE CHAOS
One passenger spoke by phone with CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian from inside the airport.
“All of a sudden we heard a loud boom and we’re like ‘what is that?’ It took a second to process. We heard another boom and all of the security guards said ‘get down on the floor, get down on the floor,'” witness Dana Starfield said. “We crawled through security, through the security gates. Crawled forward, everyone was just scrambling.”
“We were running towards a little door and someone let us into a supply closet. There were about 5 or 6 other people there….We put a copy machine in front of the door and we heard a few more booms,” Starfield told Dardashtian.
Passenger Robert Perez told CBS 2 that TSA agents came through the terminal and yelled that a man had a gun.
“I heard popping and everybody dropped to the ground,” Perez said. Another witness said he actually saw the alleged shooter.
“I was waiting for my flight and heard a rumble of people, which I thought was an earthquake, but then I saw people running and heard gun shots, immediately dove under the benches at my gate, and then gunshots stopped and I got up and called my wife,” Billy Bey said. “Then I saw a man walking towards the gate, when I saw him I thought he was just a passenger looking for his gate, but when he kept walking, I saw he had something looked like an assault rifle, a huge gun strapped over his shoulder, hanging down on the right side of his waist.”
Passenger Rodrigo Jara told KNX1070 NEWSRADIO he was waiting in line to go through the security line in Terminal 3 when he heard a loud sound.
“I heard ‘pop, pop, pop,’ and then we fell down, and little did I know, I looked to the side, and this guy’s going up the stairs with the rifle,” Jara said.
Jara described the shooter he saw as a white male with blonde/dirty blonde hair possibly wearing khakis, clean-cut, and “walking like he was going to buy tea.”
It was not the first shooting at LAX. On July 4, 2002, a limousine driver opened fire at the airport’s El Al ticket counter, killing an airline employee and a person who was dropping off a friend at the terminal. Police killed the man.
You may also be interested in these stories:
- Police: Suspect Arrested In Connection To Sexual Assault, Robbery On UES
- Charges Dropped For NJ Woman Who Took In Abandoned Squirrels
- 8-Year-Old Girl, Cop Hailed As Heroes For Saving Life Of Her Baby Brother In Hampton Bays
- Jury To Decide Fate Of Rookie NYPD Officer Accused In Akai Gurley Shooting Death
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)