Gunman targets TSA in Los Angeles airport shooting

By Tami Abdollah

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this aerial video frame grab provided by CBS-LA, fire and rescue personnel gather at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday Nov. 1, 2013. Shots were fired Friday at Los Angeles International Airport, prompting authorities to evacuate a terminal and stop flights headed for the city from taking off from other airports.

CBS-LA, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A man toting a semi-automatic rifle, some 150 rounds of ammunition and a grudge against TSA workers shot his way past a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport in a deadly rampage that sent hundreds of travelers fleeing in terror.

When the shooting stopped, a Transportation Security Administration officer was dead. Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, became the first TSA officer in the agency's 12-year history to be killed in the line of duty.

Five other people were hurt, including two other TSA employees and the gunman, identified as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J. He was shot four times by airport police and remained hospitalized but there was no word on his condition.

Ciancia apparently had been living in Los Angeles for about 1½ years, authorities said.

As gunshots rang out in Terminal 3 on Friday morning, swarms of passengers screamed, dropped to the ground or ran for their lives.

"I really thought I saw death," said Anne Rainer, who witnessed the gunfire with her 26-year-old son Ben. The pair were about to leave for New York so her son could see a specialist for a rare genetic condition he has.

They took refuge behind a ticket counter where she said people prayed, cried and held hands. She watched as one person jumped from a second-floor balcony to get away from the gunman.

"Adrenaline went through my head, my body went numb, and I said, 'If I have to go, it's OK because I'm not going to feel it, but I have to save him,'" Rainer said.

Nick Pugh had just handed his driver's license and boarding pass to a TSA screener and was about to walk toward a metal detector when the shooting began. He dove to the floor. Watching panicked people trying to crawl over one another, Pugh got up and bolted through an emergency exit door and onto the airport tarmac.

"I thought with all of the terrorism we've had, get away from the terminal where everyone is," Pugh said. "If there's a lot of people shooting or a bomb, get away from where everybody else is. I just ran."

Others fled into the terminal, taking refuge in coffee shops and lounges as the gunman shot his way toward them. However, some witnesses and authorities said the gunman ignored anyone except TSA targets.

Airport police officers shot the gunman four times, including in the mouth and leg, during a shootout in front of a Burger King in the terminal.

A law enforcement official said the gunman was dressed in fatigues and carried at least five full 30-round magazines of ammunition. In his bag he had a one-page, handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and "pigs."

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the note referred to how the gunman believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches and that he was a "pissed-off patriot" upset at former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

On Friday, Ciancia's father in New Jersey had called authorities for help in finding his son after the young man sent one of his siblings a text message about committing suicide, Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said.

The chief said he called Los Angeles police, who sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. There, two roommates said that they had seen him a day earlier and he had appeared to be fine.

Cummings said that the Ciancias — owners of an auto body shop — are a "good family" and that his department had had no dealings with the son.

People who knew Ciancia said they were shocked that he was the alleged gunman.

Ciancia's former roommate in Los Angeles, James Mincey, said he appeared to be unemployed but never showed any disturbing qualities, such as a fascination with guns.

He spoke to Ciancia last week.

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