LA airport suspect on murder charge

The man suspected of carrying out Friday’s gun attack at Los Angeles Airport has been charged with murder.

Prosecutors say the death penalty could be sought if 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia is convicted. He is in hospital after being shot by police.

A federal US security agent was killed and others wounded in the attack. Police are attempting to establish a motive for the assault.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has now reopened fully.

About 1,550 flights with 167,000 passengers were affected, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

‘Traitorous minds’

US Attorney Andre Birotte said Mr Ciancia was also charged with commission of violence at an international airport.

Paul Ciancia grew up in New Jersey but had moved to Los Angeles

Mr Birotte said the gunman had pulled a “.223-calibre M&P-15 assault rifle out of his bag and fired multiple rounds at point-blank range” at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer Gerardo Hernandez, 39.

The attorney said the shots did not kill the officer, but the gunman returned to “shoot the wounded officer again”.

Mr Hernandez’s widow, Ana, said he was “a joyful person, always smiling and took pride in his duty to the American public”.

The FBI has also given more details of a note found on the suspect.

David Bowdich, the head of the FBI’s LA office, said: “In the note that was handwritten by the defendant, that was signed by the defendant, we found a statement where he made a conscious decision to kill multiple TSA employees.

“He addressed them at one point in the letter, and stated that he wanted to ‘instil fear into their traitorous minds’.”

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TSA: An unloved agency

  • Part of US Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration was created after 9/11 to beef up airport security
  • But critics say the 50,000-strong agency is ineffectual and even unconstitutional
  • Its introduction of full-body scanners and pat-downs at airports in 2010 was seen by many as highly intrusive
  • The TSA has received thousands of complaints about discourtesy, delays at checkpoints and damage to luggage during screening

Mr Bowdich said investigators had not yet been able to interview Mr Ciancia.

The gunman appeared to target agents of the TSA, which manages security at US airports.

He pushed through screening gates and walked more than 100 yards (90m) into the secure area of the terminal before law enforcement officers caught up with him in a food court.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press news agency that Mr Ciancia was shot in the mouth and leg by two airport police officers.

Bystander Leon Saryan told AP he had just passed through security and was looking for a place to replace his shoes and belt when he heard gunshots.

As he attempted to hide, the gunman approached him.

Shooting victim Gerardo Hernandez was a “joyful person”, his widow, Ana, said

“He looked at me and asked ‘TSA?’ I shook my head no, and he continued on down toward the gate. He had his gun at the ready and, but for the grace of God, I am here to tell about it.”

Allen Cummings, the police chief of Pennsville, New Jersey, where Anthony Ciancia grew up, said the 23-year-old’s father Paul had contacted him on Friday as he was concerned about his son in Los Angeles.

He said text messages received by family members had prompted the call.

“There was some things in there that made his family feel he may do harm to himself,” Allen Cummings told reporters.

Mr Cummings said Paul Ciancia had also heard from a friend that his son might have obtained a gun.

The police chief said he had contacted Los Angeles police, who sent a patrol car to Anthony Ciancia’s apartment. Two roommates said they had seen him a day earlier, and that he had appeared fine.