Suspected LAX Shooter Due in Court Today

By City News Service

A Sun Valley man accused of opening fire inside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport, killing a Transportation Security Administration officer, is expected to plead not guilty to federal charges Thursday.

Paul Anthony Ciancia faces 11 felony counts, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the LAX shooting rampage. Federal prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek the death penalty if Ciancia is convicted.

A not-guilty plea is expected to be entered and future court dates set at today's hearing before a federal magistrate judge in downtown Los Angeles.

Ciancia, 23, allegedly walked into the terminal the morning of Nov. 1, pulled a semiautomatic rifle out of a duffel bag and opened fire. Authorities said he was specifically targeting TSA officers as he shot his way past a security checkpoint and into the gate area.

He was eventually shot by police, but not before TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, a 39-year-old father of two, was killed. Authorities said Ciancia shot Hernandez at a lower-level passenger check-in station and began walking upstairs, but returned when he realized Hernandez was still alive and shot him again.

In addition to first-degree murder, the indictment charges Ciancia with two counts of attempted murder for the shootings of TSA officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer, who were wounded in the attack. Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas teacher, was also wounded.

Ciancia, a New Jersey native who moved to the Southland in the past two years, was also charged with committing acts of violence at an international airport, one count of using a firearm to commit murder, and three counts of brandishing and discharging a firearm.

During the shooting, Ciancia was allegedly carrying a signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and "instill fear in their traitorous minds." Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.

Ciancia was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He spent more than two weeks at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center before he was released into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

He remains jailed without bail.


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