LAX gunman 'aimed to kill TSA agents'

Authorities elaborate on letter, surveillance video in charging him with assault at Los Angeles airport

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LOS ANGELES -- The unemployed motorcycle mechanic suspected of carrying out the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport set out to kill multiple employees of the Transportation Security Administration and hoped the attack would "instill fear in their traitorous minds," authorities said Saturday.

Paul Ciancia was so determined to take lives that, after shooting a TSA officer and going up an escalator, he turned back to see the officer move and returned to fire on him again, killing him, according to surveillance video reviewed by investigators.

In a news conference announcing charges against Mr. Ciancia, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. spelled out a chilling chain of events inside LAX that began Friday morning when Mr. Ciancia strode into Terminal 3, pulled a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber assault rifle from his duffel bag and fired at point-blank range at a TSA officer who was checking IDs and boarding passes at the base of an escalator leading to the main screening area.

After killing that officer, Mr. Ciancia fired on at least two other uniformed TSA employees and a civilian airline passenger, who were all wounded. Airport police eventually shot Mr. Cianca as panicked passengers cowered in stores and restaurants.

Mr. Ciancia, 23, was hit four times and remained hospitalized Saturday, but there was no word on his condition. He was shot in the mouth and the leg, authorities said.

The duffel bag contained a handwritten letter signed by Mr. Ciancia stating he had "made the conscious decision to try to kill" multiple TSA employees and that he wanted to stir fear in them, said FBI Agent in Charge David L. Bowdich.

Federal prosecutors filed charges of first-degree murder and commission of violence at an international airport against Mr. Ciancia. The charges could qualify him for the death penalty.

The FBI was still looking into Mr. Ciancia's past, but investigators said they had not found evidence of past crimes or any run-ins with TSA. They said he had never applied for a job with the agency.

Authorities believe someone dropped Mr. Ciancia off at the airport. Agents are reviewing surveillance videos to piece together the exact sequence of events, he said.

The note found in the duffel bag suggested Mr. Ciancia was willing to kill almost any TSA officer.

When searched, the suspect had five 30-round magazines, and his bag contained hundreds more rounds in boxes, the law-enforcement official said.

Terminal 3, the area where the shooting happened, reopened Saturday. Passengers who had abandoned luggage to escape Friday's gunfire were allowed to return to collect their bags.

The TSA planned to review its security policies in the wake of the shooting. Administrator John Pistole did not say if that meant arming officers.

As airport operations returned to normal, a few more details trickled out about Mr. Ciancia, who by all accounts was reserved and solitary.

Mr. Ciancia, according to friends, had arrived fairly recently in Los Angeles. He grew up in Pennsville, a small town of ranch-style houses in southern New Jersey. His father owned an auto body shop nearby.

Mr. Ciancia attended a small Catholic boys school in nearby Wilmington, Del. Several family friends, neighbors and classmates described him as a reserved, quiet boy who along with his younger brother, Taylor, seemed to be scarred by his mother's long battle with multiple sclerosis and death in 2009.

Mr. Ciancia graduated in December 2011 from Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Fla., said Tina Miller, a spokeswoman for Universal Technical Institute, the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that runs the school.

Authorities identified the dead TSA officer as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, the first TSA official in the agency's 12-year history to be killed in the line of duty.

In brief remarks outside the couple's home in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, his widow, Ana Hernandez, said Saturday that her husband came to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 15.

The couple, who married on Valentine's Day in 1998, had two children.

The New York Times contributed.

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