Los Angeles airport gunman charged with murder

Paul Anthony Ciancia could face the death penalty
  • @James_Legge

The gunman who shot dead a security officer and brought America's third busiest airport to a standstill on Friday afternoon has been charged with murder and could face the death penalty.

Paul Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old from Los Angeles, was also charged with commission of violence at an international airport.

He was wounded by police and detained after opening fire with a .223-calibre semi automatic assault-style rifle, which he pulled from a bag in Terminal 3 of LA International Airport. He killed security guard Gerardo Hernandez and wounded seven others.

He was taken into custody in a "critical condition," and no more is known of his condition.

US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr said Ciancia fired at Mr Hernandez repeatedly at point-blank range. He then went up an escalator and turned back to see the officer move. He returned to kill him, according to a surveillance video reviewed by the FBI.

California uses the death penalty, and criminals can choose between lethal injection or gas chamber.

The attack affected hundreds of flights nationwide, and on Friday the Los Angeles mayor said Ciancia had at least 100 rounds "that could have literally killed everyone in that terminal."

The terminal reopened on Saturday.

Investigators said they wanted to know what had been "the tipping point" for the suspect, who had recently moved to LA from New Jersey. Sources said that he had sent "angry, rambling" text messages to family members in recent days and it has emerged that Ciancia's father contacted police in New Jersey shortly before the shooting, after an apparently suicidal text message was sent by the suspect to his brother.

His 39-year-old victim worked for the Transport Security Administration, which was set up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Its officers, who screen all commercial airline passengers and baggage, do not carry weapons.

It is unclear why Ciancia targeted the TSA, and the FBI said they had no evidence of any grudge against the agency. But the handwritten note found in his bag said 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.

And Sky News cites an official paraphrasing the note as adding: "Black, white, yellow, brown, I don't discriminate."

One witness said that Ciancia appeared to be targeting security officials. Leon Saryan told CNN that, after shooting a TSA officer, the attacker "calmly" approached him and asked: "TSA?"

"I just shook my head and he kept going," Mr Saryan said.