By Steve Gorman and Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES Nov 4 A gunman who opened fire at
the Los Angeles International Airport last week, killing a
federal security screener and wounding several other people, did
not immediately raise suspicions when he entered the airport,
police said on Monday.
The gunman entered Terminal 3 of the sprawling airport
looking like any other passenger, and likely would not have been
detained immediately even if an armed officer had been stationed
at the front door, said Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles
"He came in that door as a normal traveler with a bag and he
was dressed normal. He didn't raise anyone's suspicions at that
point," Gannon told a news conference.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, was arrested following the
shooting and has been charged 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 walking into the terminal on Friday morning
and opening fire with an assault-style rifle at the entrance to
a security checkpoint, killing a Transportation Security
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 captured. The shooting triggered pandemonium as
passengers and employees ran frantically for cover.
It has also sparked debate over the safety of unarmed
security screeners at U.S. airports and about the adequacy of
security measures that screen passengers as they enter airport
terminals but do not conduct searches on people or vehicles as
they enter the airport itself.
Ciancia, who was shot by law enforcement officers before he
was taken into custody, remains hospitalized in critical
condition, and local media have reported that he remained
unresponsive and under heavy sedation.
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told
Reuters that as of Sunday, FBI agents had been unable to
question Ciancia, who was reported to have sustained four
gunshot wounds, including one to his head.
Ciancia's parents said in a statement released through an
attorney that they have cooperated with investigators and
expressed sympathy for relatives of the slain security agent.
Flight traffic throughout the airport, the world's sixth
busiest, was disrupted for much of the weekend, causing a ripple
effect of delays around the country. Security was stepped up at
many airports and federal authorities said they were considering
changes to aviation security protocols.
In the days since the rampage, critics have suggested that
the gunman could have been stopped sooner if an armed police
officer had been stationed in front of the screening area, or if
TSA agents themselves were armed.
A union representing TSA employees called for a "larger and
more consistent armed presence in screening areas." The American
Federation of Government Employees said that to accomplish that
goal, it wanted to see a new class of TSA officers with law
Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace
Officers Association, told the Los Angeles Times that earlier
this year armed officers had been moved from that position so
they could patrol inside and outside of the terminal.
But Arif Alikhan, deputy executive director of law
enforcement, homeland security and fire services at LAX, told a
Monday news conference that armed police officers were still
assigned to the TSA checkpoints.
"They've never been moved from the checkpoints. And there
are many, many other armed police officers throughout the
airport," he said.
Alikhan said the slain security officer, 39-year-old Gerardo
Hernandez, had been stationed at the base of an escalator that
leads to the security gates when he was shot, becoming 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 have said it appeared that the gunman had
specifically targeted TSA employees.
"In my opinion, where the TSA employee was when he was
attacked saved lives," Gannon said. "Where he was shot warned
the people in the screening area of an attack."
The law enforcement source said the suspect was given a ride
to the airport by a roommate who authorities believe was unaware
of any criminal intent on Ciancia's part. The roommate is not
expected to be charged, the source told Reuters.