Questions Remain about LAX Shooting Suspect
LOS ANGELES, Ca. (CBS News) - While the suspected gunman in Friday’s deadly attack on a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport is in custody, the fallout continued Saturday morning.
Flights were still backed up and questions remained about the suspect’s motive and his arsenal.
The name of the TSA officer who died is 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez. He is the first TSA officer ever to be killed in the line of duty.
CBS News reports there was still a heavy police presence at LAX. Terminal 3 remained closed while the investigation continues. Authorities said it is quite a large crime scene.
Shots rang out inside the airport just before 9:30 Friday morning, leading to a stampede of terrified people trying to exit the airport.
The shooting began at the TSA checkpoint in Terminal 3, when police say 23-year-old Paul Ciancia pulled a semi-automatic rifle out of his bag.
“He proceeded up into the screening area, where TSA screeners are, and continued shooting and went past the screeners back into the airport itself,” Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon told reporters.
“I heard gunshots, so we all went to the ground, and then a few seconds later I saw him coming up the elevator with his gun pointed, and he just kept walking in towards the terminal,” witness Andrea Trujillo said.
Police say Ciancia killed one TSA officer and wounded two others. He then moved down the long Terminal 3 concourse toward the gate area. Some passengers who could not get out of the terminal packed into restroom stalls for cover.
Officers soon confronted Ciancia and exchanged fire before seizing him.
“Unfortunately, it involved an officer-involved shooting, but that’s what needed to be done in that particular situation, and that was heroic,” Gannon told reporters.
Steven Pomerantz, a former FBI assistant director, told the “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-hosts that authorities did “the absolute right thing at the right time.”
“There is little you can do,” said Pomerantz. “We live in a complex society with all kinds of vulnerabilities. There are lots of people out there with lots of different grudges, and unfortunately the availability of weapons is another issue that’s just a reality in our society, and these things are going to happen from time to time.”
Pictures taken moments after police shot Ciancia show his rifle on the floor. Video footage showed a man matching Ciancia’s description wheeled into a Los Angeles hospital.
Outside Terminal 3, paramedics assisted the wounded, including a TSA officer who appeared to be unconscious.
The death toll could have been much worse. Ciancia was allegedly carrying five fully loaded magazines, which contained approximately 180 rounds. More ammunition was found in a bag nearby.
“There were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal today,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters.
Law enforcement sources told CBS News that “anti-government, anti-TSA writings” were found in the suspect’s bag.
Authorities Saturday morning were going though terminals and picking up belongings that were left behind so they can get them back to passengers.
On Friday, 1,500 flights into or out of LAX were delayed or canceled, affecting 167,000 passengers. It’s unclear how many flights would be impacted Saturday.