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Murder Complaint to Be Filed Against LAX Shooter

Authorities say the shooter was dropped off at the airport.

Passengers were held at the baggage claim in Terminal 3 while police conducted interviews. Photo credit Josh (@pascaljosh) on Twitter.
Passengers were held at the baggage claim in Terminal 3 while police conducted interviews. Photo credit Josh (@pascaljosh) on Twitter.

A murder complaint will be filed by the Justice Department against Paul Anthony Ciancia, a prosecutor said Saturday, and the death penalty is possible.

"His intention was very, very clear," FBI special agent in charge, David Bowdich said late Saturday. "He indicated his anger and his malice, I would say, to TSA officers."

Ciancia remained hospitalized with four gunshot wounds Saturday, and the FBI was unable to speak to him. But Bowdich said Ciancia was the lone gunman who killed one, shot and injured four, and caused two others to be injured in the ensuing panic.

The gunman was armed with a Smith and Wesson .223 caliber M&P assault rifle, Birotte said, and carried five loaded magazines into the terminal. He also carried a signed, handwritten note.

Ciancia hunted down Transportation Security Administration officers and had written that he wanted to instill fear into the "traitorous minds" of TSA officers, Bowditch said.

The first TSA agent to be killed in the line of duty, officer  Gerardo I. Hernandez was working in the pre-screening area, the first line of defense on the upper level ticketing hall.

Bowditch said video shows Ciancia shooting Hernandez "multiple times and at point blank range" before going up a short escalator to the inspection area. He then walked back down the escalator to again shoot Hernandez, the agent said.

The chief federal prosecutor for Los Angeles, Andre Birotte Jr., told an afternoon news conference that the shooter shot and wounded two TSA agents and two civilians. Two other people were hurt while evading the chaos in Terminal 3 in the spree.

In addition to a charge of murder of a federal official, Ciancia, 23, will be charged with commission of violence at an American airport. Under federal law and policy, Justice Department officials in Washington will evaluate the case to determine which of two penalties they will ask for Ciancia: life in prison with no parole possible, or death.

Bowdich said the indication of that malice was the note stating that Ciancia, 23, of Los Angeles, had made a conscious decision to kill multiple TSA officers.

Ciancia remained in critical condition with the four gunshot wounds, including one to his head, and he has not been talked to by law enforcement, Bowdich said.

"He has been receiving medical treatment, but at this point, he is unresponsive," Bowdich said.

Other aspects of Friday morning's airport rampage became clearer at a late afternoon news conference Saturday. TSA Administrator John S. Pistole revealed that Ciancia had been dropped off at the airport by an as-yet unknown party.

The FBI announced it was resorting to crowdsourcing to properly understand and document Friday's sequence of events.

The agency has requested anyone at the airport who shot images or made recordings of the incident to upload them to a specifically setup site: https://laxshootingtips.fbi.gov

Information can also be submitted by phone through a tip line: (888) 226- 8443.

A high police visibility was evidenced at LAX Saturday, as Terminal 3 reopened for business at midday. At ticket counters and in the garage on World Way, passengers and others were picking up abandoned suitcases, laptops, purses and parked cars.

The enhanced police deployment will include additional resources from the Los Angeles Police Department as well as federal air marshals, said Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon

"We'll keep it (the enhanced deployment) going as long as we think it's necessary,' Gannon said. "Our approach to security here is layered. We have a number of different ways to keep this airport safe.'

The airport's executive director, Gina Marie Lindsey, said LAX's other eight terminals reported normal operations, "just very, very busy."

Lindsey reported that there have been 30 flight cancellations at the airport Saturday. The last airline with cancelled flights, JetBlue, had diverting operations to Long Beach Airport Saturday but resumed normal service to LAX at sunset.

City Councilman Mike Bonin called the airport police officers' response to the shooting "textbook," and saved "untold lives."

One victim, a man, remained in critical condition and another was in fair condition Saturday after the shooting attack.

A third shooting victim was treated at released Friday afternoon, said Mark Wheeler of UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations.

One of the patients at the hospital is Brian Ludmer, 29, a teacher at Calabasas High School, Las Virgenes schools Superintendent Dan Stepenosky told the Los Angeles Times.

He was waiting for a flight when he was shot in the leg and then dragged himself to a closet, where he hid until he heard a police officer outside the door, the newspaper reported. Another patient was believed to have been taken to Marina del Rey Hospital.

TSA security agents at LAX and nationwide began wearing black mourning bands Friday in honor of Hernandez, the first TSA agent to die in the line of duty in the agency's 12 years of existence.

Officials Saturday said Hernandez was working as a pre-screening officer, contradicting reports from a union official in Washington Friday that the agent was working as a behavior detection officer in the ticket hall.

The landmark, oscillating-color 100 foot-high glass pylons at the LAX entrance will stay blue through Sunday to honor Hernandez, the airport announced.

- City News Service

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