Calm has returned to Los Angeles International Airport following Friday’s shooting attack that killed a TSA officer and wounded some half dozen other people, sending hundreds of travelers fleeing into the streets and onto the tarmac and disrupting flight schedules around the country.
One of those being treated for gunshot wounds is Paul Anthony Ciancia, the 23 year-old who allegedly carried out the attack before being chased down, then shot and taken into custody by police officers near a Burger King restaurant at a circle of departure gates in Terminal 3 at LAX.
After hours of confusion Friday, during which officials were not able to say much about the alleged shooter or any possible motivation, details have begun to emerge about an angry, troubled young man whose family back East had become concerned about what they were hearing from him, including threats of suicide.
According to officials examining information found on Ciancia after his capture, apparently he was upset about government in general and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular.
Passengers in the area of the shooting said he asked some people, “Hey, are you TSA?” When they answered “no,” the young man wearing fatigues passed them by, targeting TSA officers (who are unarmed) with a military-style semi-automatic rifle and extra clips of ammunition holding more than 100 rounds.
As pieced together by law enforcement officials and eye witnesses, Ciancia had parked his car at the airport, ran up an escalator into Terminal 3, pulled his weapon from a bag, and began firing as he approached the area where passengers must first show their ticket and government-issued identification before having their luggage and themselves checked by TSA. Witnesses say they heard 8-10 shots.
TSA has identified the officer killed at LAX as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39 – the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty in the agency's 12-year history. Two other TSA officers were shot and wounded. Several passengers were hurt in the chaos that followed the shooting.
A former classmate of Ciancia's told the Los Angeles Times that the suspected gunman was a loner who had been bullied at their private high school.
"In four years, I never heard a word out of his mouth," said David Hamilton, who graduated with Ciancia from Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., in 2008. "He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot. I really don't remember any one person who was close to him."
Early Friday afternoon, 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, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. There, two roommates said that they had seen him Thursday and that he was fine, according to Cummings.
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.
Airport officials say 746 flights nationwide were affected by the incident. Some 46 were diverted, and others were held at LAX or at the originating airport. Terminal 3, where the shooting occurred, remains closed as the forensics investigation continues.
Employees are being let back into two closed terminals, and taxis and buses are again running on a loop through the airport. In addition, the FAA has dropped its "ground stop" order, meaning airliners in other cities are allowed to resume flying to LAX. Nearly 200 flights were cancelled and others were diverted.
Established in the wake of the 911 terrorist attacks as part of the new Homeland Security Department, the TSA is tasked with securing the nation’s airports, including the screening of all commercial airline passengers and baggage. It has run into some controversy over the years, especially what critics say is the unnecessarily intrusive pat-down and X-ray of passengers.
Friday’s shooting is the latest in a string of attacks by what are said to be troubled men with apparently easy access to weapons that can do a great deal of damage in a short time: the Navy shipyard shooting in Washington in September that killed 12 people; a shooting rampage at an apartment building in Miami that killed 6 people in July; the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders, in Dec. 2012; the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 people and wounded 70 in July, 2012; a shooting at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, Calif., that killed seven people in April 2012; and the shooting at the US Army’s Ft. Hood in Texas, where Army psychologist Major Nidal Hasan opened fire, killing 13 people and wounding 42.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.