LAX shooter charged with two felonies, targeted TSA screeners


The man charged with the Friday murder of a Transportation Security Administration screener at Los Angeles International Airport and the injuring of two other screeners and a passenger reportedly carried a handwritten note expressing his desire to kill "TSA and pigs."

Federal prosecutors in California have charged (.pdf) the man, Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, with two felonies: murder of a federal officer and commission of violence in an international airport. Both charges carry the potential of the death penalty.

During a Saturday news briefing, FBI officials said Ciancia's "intent was made 'very, very clear' in a note in which he 'indicated his anger and malice toward TSA officers,'" reports the Los Angeles Times. An affidavit from a FBI special agent says Ciancia addressed TSA employees in his note, stating he wanted to "instill fear into your traitorous minds."

"In his diatribe, the gunman claimed the TSA treats Americans like terrorists even though all people aren't equally dangerous, a U.S. law enforcement official said," CNN reports.

Ciancia shot TSA screener Gerardo Hernandez, stationed at a security checkpoint at Terminal 3 of LAX, at point blank range with a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber assault rifle, firing multiple times. Ciancia began to walk up an escalator, but saw Hernandez appearing to move, and returned to shoot him again, the FBI affidavit states. Ciancia legally bought at least two guns earlier this year in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, finds the New York Times.

Hernandez, 39, is the first TSA officer to be killed in the line of duty. CNN names the two wounded TSA officers as James Speer, 54, and Tony Grigsby, 36, both now released from the hospital. Hernandez was married and had a teenage son and young daughter.

Los Angeles Airport Police quickly pursued Ciancia as he went deeper inside the terminal, reportedly shooting him in the leg and the face. The FBI affidavit says police found five magazine clips of ammunition for his assault rifle on Ciancia. He told police he acted alone; he remains under continuous armed guard in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

Agency administrator John Pistole has said the shooting will prompt an officer safety policy review. The incident has also revived the debate over whether TSA officers should be armed; currently, they are not. A spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing about 45,000 TSA screeners, said the organization is preparing a statement clarifying its stance on armed TSA officers, the subject of contradictory reporting over the weekend.

On Sunday talk show State of the Union, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said that "coordination with the local police is always key because, remember, TSA officers are not armed. It's the local police that provide the perimeter security."

McCaul also said the Los Angeles Police Department went to Ciancia's apartment "literally probably 45 minutes" before he started the shooting around 9:20 a.m., following a notification from New Jersey police, which Ciancia's family called after reportedly receiving a suicidal text message from him.

For more:
- download the criminal complaint against Ciancia and the FBI affidavit (.pdf)

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