LOS ANGELES: The gunman who allegedly killed a security officer at Los Angeles airport carried a note saying he planned to murder “multiple” agents, officials said on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as they announced charges against him.
A prosecutor told how Paul Ciancia allegedly opened fire at “point blank range” on Gerardo Hernandez, the first Transportation Security Agency agent killed since the TSA was created after September 11, 2001.
The dead officer’s widow, meanwhile, said she was “truly devastated” by his death.
“He was a joyful person, always smiling and took pride in his duty to the American public,” said Ana Hernandez.
Ciancia, who used a Smith & Wesson assault rifle and a large stock of ammunition in the attack, faces a possible death penalty on charges of murdering a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport.
The gun rampage triggered chaos at LA international (LAX) airport Friday, disrupting over 1,500 flights. The airport only fully reopened Saturday, more than 24 hours later.
Describing how the shooting started, a prosecutor said Ciancia pulled a “.223-caliber M&P-15 assault rifle out of his bag and fired multiple rounds at point-blank range” at Hernandez, 39, shortly after 9:00 am in LAX’s Terminal 3.
The shots injured the TSA officer but did not kill him. The 23-year-old gunman then went up a nearby an escalator, and came back down to “shoot the wounded officer again,” said United States lawyer Andre Birotte.
Ciancia then proceeded further into the terminal, shooting a further four people including two other TSA officers, before being detained after a gunfight with LAX police.
The alleged gunman, who remains in hospital and has not yet answered any questions from investigators, carried a note in his bag indicating that, “he targeted especially TSA officer, for whom he felt “anger and malice.”
The handwritten note, found in a bag taken into the airport, showed that he “made a conscious decision to kill multiple TSA employees,” said David Bowdich, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s LA office.
“In the note that was handwritten by the defendant, that was signed by the defendant, we found a statement where he made a conscious decision to kill multiple TSA employees,” said Bowdich.
“He addressed them at one point in the letter, and stated that he wanted to ‘instill fear into their traitorous minds.’”
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that Ciancia had lots more ammunition when he was arrested.
“There were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal,” he said.
Birotte said Ciancia was shot four times by airport police, and that he had some 150 rounds of ammunition. Two LAX police fired at the gunman, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
An estimated 1,550 scheduled-flights with some 167,000 passengers were impacted Friday amid the resulting ground stop, they said.