Family Of Alleged LAX Shooter Speaks Out, Airport Security Under Review
LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — The family of alleged LAX shooter Paul Ciancia made their first public statement Monday, as federal officials weighed possible security changes at airports, CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported.
On Friday, Ciancia, 23, who had recently moved to Los Angeles from Pennsville, N.J. opened fire inside Los Angeles International Airport, killing one TSA agent and wounding two others and a passenger before airport police shot him four times.
Ciancia remained in critical condition Monday. He has not been scheduled to appear in court. Any appearance will depend on when his doctors say he’s ready, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
In a statement read by their attorney, Ciancia’s family said they were “shocked and numbed” by the shootings.
“We acknowledge the need to understand what happened and why it happened,” the statement said. “To that end, we have fully cooperated with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies over the last several days.
“It is most important to us as a family that we express our deep and sincere sympathy to the Hernandez family,” the statement continued. “By all accounts, Officer Hernandez was an exemplary member of the law enforcement community and a good family man. Our hearts go out to his family and many others who grieve his passing.”
Ciancia sent text messages to his family in New Jersey before the shootingstelling them he was unhappy and that something bad would happen, prompting them to call police.
As CBS News senior correspondent John Miller explained, Ciancia concealed the .223 caliber MP-15 assault rifle inside a suitcase with a backtop on top.
“He’s cut a hole in the top of the suitcase and in the bottom of the backpack so that the rifle can stand up in this tunnel between the two bags,” Miller said. “He’s able to pull the backpack off the top, pull the rifle out of the suitcase.”
In court documents and interviews, authorities spelled out a chilling chain of events, saying Ciancia walked into the airport’s Terminal 3, pulled out the rifle and fired repeatedly at 39-year-old TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez. Ciancia went up an escalator, turned back to see Hernandez move and returned to shoot him again, according to surveillance video reviewed by investigators.
He then fired on two other uniformed TSA employees and an airline passenger, who all were wounded, as he moved methodically through the security checkpoint to the passenger gate area before airport police shot him as panicked travelers hid in stores and restaurants.
The TSA said the other two officers wounded in the attack — James Speer, 54, and Tony Grigsby, 36 — were released from the hospital.
Brian Ludmer, a high school teacher, remained hospitalized. He has to undergo at least one more surgery on his leg and extensive physical therapy, hospital officials said Monday, but his condition was upgraded from fair to good.
Two other people suffered injuries trying to evade the gunman, but were not shot.
It wasn’t clear why Ciancia targeted TSA officers, but what he left behind indicated he was willing to kill any of them who crossed his path, authorities revealed.
The FBI said Ciancia had a handwritten letter, stating that he made the conscious decision to try to kill multiple TSA officers and ‘instill fear in your traitorous minds.”
The letter in his duffel bag refers to how Ciancia believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches and that he’s a “pissed-off patriot,” upset at former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
“Black, white, yellow, brown, I don’t discriminate,” the note read, according to a paraphrase by a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The screed mentioned “fiat currency” and “NWO,” possible references to the New World Order, a conspiracy theory that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.
The letter also talked about “how easy it is to get a gun into the airport,” the law enforcement official said.
Ciancia is charged with murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport, charges that could qualify him for the death penalty.
When searched, the suspect had five 30-round magazines, and his bag contained hundreds more rounds in boxes.
The FBI was still looking into Ciancia’s past, but investigators said they had not found evidence of previous crimes or any run-ins with the TSA. They said he had never applied for a job with the agency.
Attorney General Eric Holder said security measures at all airports will be reviewed.
“The responsibility for protecting airport security is not a TSA function, but something that I think we need to examine,” he said.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that Ciancia’s actions show how difficult it is to protect travelers at a massive airport such as LAX.
The terminals are open and easily accessible to thousands of people who arrive at large sliding glass doors via a broad ring road that fronts the facility and is designed to move people along quickly.
“It’s like a shopping mall outside the perimeter,” McCaul said.
TSA Administrator John Pistole said the agency will need to work with each airport’s police agency “to see how we’ll go about in providing the best possible security.”
Scott Green, one of the passengers who ran for their lives when the shooting began, agreed airport security is lacking.
“You know, that guy had a gun, and no one was there to stop him,” he said.
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