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Transportation Security Administration employees classify the luggage to return to passengers at Los Angeles International Airport's Terminal 3 on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. A gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire at the airport on Friday, killing a Transportation Security Administration employee and wounding two other people in an attack that frightened passengers and disrupted flights nationwide. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
LAX suspect set out to kill, scare TSA officers
Shooting » Federal prosecutors have charged suspect with first-degree murder, commission of violence at international airport.
First Published Nov 02 2013 07:57 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:37 pm

Los Angeles • The unemployed motorcycle mechanic suspected of carrying out the deadly shooting at the Los Angeles 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 the FBI.

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In a news conference announcing charges against Ciancia, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. spelled out a chilling chain of events inside LAX that began when Ciancia strode into Terminal 3, pulled a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber assault rifle out of his duffel bag and fired repeatedly 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, Ciancia fired on at least two other uniformed TSA employees and a civilian airline passenger, who were all wounded. Airport police eventually shot him as panicked passengers cowered in stores and restaurants.

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

The bag also had five magazines of ammunition.

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

The FBI was still looking into his past, but 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 TSA.

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

"We are really going to draw a picture of who this person was, his background, his history. That will help us explain why he chose to do what he did," Bowdich said. "At this point, I don’t have the answer on that."


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

"Black, white, yellow, brown, I don’t discriminate," the note read, according to a paraphrase by a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The suspect’s screed also mentioned "fiat currency" and "NWO," possible references to the New World Order, a conspiracy theory that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.

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 Ciancia, who by all accounts was reserved and solitary.

Former classmates barely remember him and even a recent roommate could say little about the young man who moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles less than two years ago. A former classmate at Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., said Ciancia was incredibly quiet.

"He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot," David Hamilton told the Los Angeles Times. "I really don’t remember any one person who was close to him .... In four years, I never heard a word out of his mouth."

On Friday, Ciancia’s father called police in New Jersey, worried about his son in L.A. The young man had sent texts to his family that suggested he might be in trouble, at one point even saying goodbye.

The call came too late. Ten minutes earlier, police said, he had walked into the airport.

In the messages, the younger Ciancia did not mention suicide or hurting others, but his father had heard from a friend that his son may have had a gun, said Allen Cummings, police chief in Pennsville, a small blue-collar town near the Delaware River where Ciancia grew up.

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