Accused LAX gunman's family says they are cooperating with authorities

LOS ANGELES Mon Nov 4, 2013 6:04pm EST

LOS ANGELES Nov 4 (Reuters) - The family of the man charged with a deadly shooting frenzy at Los Angeles International Airport said on Monday they have fully cooperated with investigators and expressed sympathy for relatives of the security agent slain in the rampage.

The statement from the parents of Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, was issued by a lawyer in the suspect's hometown of Pennsville, New Jersey, who has known the family for a long time and was asked by the father to act as an intermediary with the media.

The lawyer, John Jordan, said he was not acting as the suspected gunman's attorney and did not know anything about Ciancia's legal representation.

Ciancia remained hospitalized under round-the-clock security on Monday in critical condition at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was reported by local media to be unresponsive and under heavy sedation.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the probe, declined to comment on details of its investigation or Ciancia's condition.

But a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case said that as of Sunday, FBI agents were still unable to question Ciancia, who was reported to have sustained four gunshot wounds, including one to his head.

Ciancia, described by the law enforcement source as unemployed, was charged on Saturday with murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport, offenses for which he could face the death penalty if convicted.

He is accused of waking into Terminal 3 at the sprawling airport, known as LAX, on Friday morning and opening fire with an assault-style rifle at the entrance to the security checkpoint, killing a Transportation Security Administration officer.

Authorities said the gunman continued past metal detectors and stalked the passenger boarding area, shooting and wounding two other TSA employees and an airline passenger, before he was shot and wounded. He was taken into custody by airport police near the terminal gate.

The shooting triggered pandemonium in the terminal as passengers and employees ran frantically for cover, and at least two other people were hurt in the ensuing stampede, the FBI said.

Flight traffic throughout the airport, the world's sixth busiest, was severely disrupted through much of the weekend, causing a ripple effect of delays around the country.

AIRPORT SECURITY PROTOCOLS

Security was stepped up at numerous airports, and federal authorities said they were considering changes to aviation security protocols.

FBI spokeswoman Ari Dekofsky said investigators were still conducting interviews, following various leads and taking tips from the public as they sought to piece together a possible motive for the shooting rampage.

"We acknowledge the need to understand what happened and why it happened," Ciancia's family said in their statement. "To that end we have fully cooperated with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies over the last several days."

The slain security officer, Gerardo Hernandez, 39, became the first TSA employee to die in the line of duty since the agency was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Authorities said it appeared that the gunman had specifically targeted TSA employees.

The law enforcement source said the suspect was given a ride to the airport by a roommate who authorities have interviewed and believe was unaware of any criminal intent on Ciancia's part. The roommate is not expected to be charged, the source told Reuters.

An unidentified woman described as an acquaintance of Ciancia and his roommate told CNN and Los Angeles television station KABC-TV that the suspect had told his roommate days before the shooting that he needed a lift to LAX to return to New Jersey to tend to his ailing father.

On the morning of the shooting, she said Ciancia barged into the roommate's room demanding that they leave for the airport immediately.

The chief of police in Pennsville, New Jersey, told CNN that Ciancia's father called him the on the day of shooting saying the family had received a text message from his son indicating he might harm himself. The chief said he contacted Los Angeles police and asked for a "well-being check" on Ciancia.

Police officers visited Ciancia's Los Angeles-area home that morning after he already had left, apparently missing him by about 45 minutes, authorities said.