A composed, solitary gunman shot his way into Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning, killing a transit security screener and injuring at least one more before being wounded by police and taken into custody. The incident was over in less than 10 minutes, but caused chaos at the world’s sixth-busiest airport and disrupted thousands of flights across the nation.
The gunman was identified as Paul Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old New Jersey native who lived most recently in Los Angeles.
Authorities declined to discuss the gunman’s motivation publicly. But a law enforcement official told The Times that a note was found on the gunman expressing “disappointment in the government” and saying that he had no interest in hurting “innocent people.” Ciancia also sent a sibling a text message last week suggesting that he was prepared to die, officials said.
It appears the gunman targeted unarmed Transportation Security Administration agents. Another law enforcement official told The Times that investigators were looking into the possibility that the shooter “wasn’t a fan of the TSA.”
Authorities said he approached several people cowering in the airport terminal, pointed his gun at them, asked if they “were TSA,” and then moved on without pulling the trigger if the answer was no. And a witness told The Times that the gunman cursed the TSA repeatedly as he moved through the terminal.
J. David Cox Sr., president of the union that represents 45,000 TSA flight screeners, called the shooting a “heinous act.” The gunman was not a TSA officer and “never had been,” according to the union, the American Federation of Government Employees.
The TSA was created in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks in an attempt to improve the safety of American transportation. The agency was charged with developing new methods of tightening airport security and preventing hihackings, but is most familiar to the public in the form of its battalion of blue-shirted screeners, who cannot make arrests and do not carry weapons.
A classmate of Ciancia’s said Friday that the suspected gunman was a loner and had been bullied at his 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 Willmington, Del., in 2008, and is now an editorial assitant at a publishing firm in Philadelphia. “He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot. I really don’t remember any one person who was close to him.”
Officials did not immediately identify the 40-year-old screener who was killed. In all, seven people were injured. Six were taken to area hospitals. It remained unclear if the gunman and the TSA officer who was killed were included in that total. All of those injured were adults, hospital officials said. Some were not shot but suffered what authorities called “evasion injuries” — injuries sustained as they attempted to run.”
The Los Angeles Times, "LAX Shooting: Gunman Targeted TSA Officers, Had Anti-Government Note."
Unless they go completely out of bounds, I will never, ever question the integrity and hard work done by our nation’s TSA employees again. They really are the front line in keeping our nation’s skies safe.