Investigators probe motives of Los Angeles Airport shooter

Airport police stand in the TSA area of terminal 1 after a shooting incident at Los Angeles airport (LAX). Credit: Reuters
Airport police stand in the TSA area of terminal 1 after a shooting incident at Los Angeles airport (LAX).
Credit: Reuters

The Los Angeles International Airport terminal where a gunman opened fire on Friday morning, killing an unarmed federal airport security agent and wounding others, remained closed to airplane traffic the day after the shooting as authorities probed the motive behind the attack.

Authorities have identified the suspected shooter as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, and they said he was shot and wounded by police in an exchange of gunfire at the airport’s busy Terminal 3.

The gunman shot at least two Transportation Security Administration employees, one fatally, said Special Agent David Bowdich of the FBI. The slain TSA agent, identified as Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was the first from the agency to die in the line of duty.

Los Angeles police officers would be wearing black mourning bands in honor of Hernandez, Chief Charlie Beck of Los Angeles Police Department said on Twitter.

The Los Angeles airport said on its Twitter feed that it had no timetable for when the FBI would complete its investigation. Passengers who had left luggage and other property behind as they ran to escape the gunfire are still not able to collect their belongings, but the airport says it hopes they will be allowed in soon.

“Stay tuned. Thanks for your patience,” one post said.

Several airlines, including Virgin America and Spirit Airlines, warned of delays and cancellations, while another, Frontier Airlines, announced it would operate out of Terminal 2 on Saturday.

Late on Friday, FBI agents armed with a search warrant combed through Ciancia’s home in the Los Angeles area, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

The gunman had an assault rifle and touched off panic and chaos at one of the world’s busiest airports. Hundreds of travelers ran for safety or frantically dove for cover behind luggage, and loud alarms blared through the terminal.

Traveler Lauren Stephens, 47, said she had just put her luggage on the scale at the ticket counter in Terminal 3 when she heard a series of gunshots. “Somebody just yelled ‘Run’ at the top of their lungs. … I just left my bag and I just ran like hell. Everybody ran.”

The gunman, a U.S. citizen who appeared to be acting alone, pushed through the screening gates and ran into an area where passengers were boarding flights, before law enforcement officers caught up with him in a food court, Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police, said at a news conference.

The officers shot him at least once and took him into custody, he said.

The FBI late on Friday could not provide the total number of people shot in the attack, Eimiller said. Paramedics took five who were wounded at the scene of the shooting to area hospitals, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said. But they could not say if all of those people had been shot.

The Los Angeles Times reported that among the wounded was Brian Ludmer, 29, who was shot in the leg and works as a high school teacher in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas.

The investigation into the attack will probe the shooting itself as well as the gunman’s background and motivation, Bowdich said on Friday. “Our goal is to do a true scrub on the individual to find out what was the tipping point for this person,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has asked that flags on city buildings be flown at half-staff, local media said.

DISTURBING TEXT MESSAGE

In New Jersey, police and FBI agents descended on Ciancia’s family’s home in Pennsville Township.

Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said he had been contacted by Ciancia’s father before the shooting, prompted by a worrisome text message from the young man to his brother.

The police chief declined to say more about what was in the text message but said that family members told investigators they had no previous indications that Ciancia, who moved to California about 18 months ago, was troubled.

A U.S. official who asked not to be identified said federal investigators were trying to determine if the gunman had been targeting TSA agents in the rampage.

Tom Ridge, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, said he did not think security changes at airports could help prevent such an incident from happening again.

Ridge said in a phone interview he opposes the idea of arming TSA agents, who are tasked with screening air passengers.

“That (arming them) requires a level of sophistication and law enforcement training, and at the end of the day, I’m not sure it’s going to make that much of a difference,” he said.

The incident affected an estimated 1,550 arriving and departing flights carrying over 167,000 passengers, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said in a statement.

A number of those flights were grounded or diverted as police evacuated passengers and shut down three terminals.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…