LAX shooting suspect pleads not guilty

U.S. -

Paul Anthony Ciancia has been charged with first degree murder in the fatal shooting of a TSA agent at Los Angeles International Airport in November.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

Los Angeles International Airport

Police said Ciancia entered Terminal 3, pulled a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle out of a bag and opened fire. He was able to proceed past a TSA screening area and into the airport itself. Police officers shot Ciancia and successfully took him into custody. Ciancia has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Andre Birotte, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, announced 11 charges in Dec. 2013 against Paul Anthony Ciancia. The charges include the first-degree murder of TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez and two counts of attempted murder. The government is yet to make a decision on seeking the death penalty.

A judge ruled March 3 that Paul Anthony Ciancia can be moved from the San Bernardino County jail where he has been receiving treatment for his wounds to the downtown Los Angeles federal detention center. Ciancia's lawyer said the move was expected by the end of the week. The next court date was scheduled for Aug. 11.

Ciancia, 24, was an unemployed motorcycle mechanic who had recently moved to Los Angeles from Pennsville, NJ. According to police, he had a friend drop him off at LAX just moments before he pulled a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle from a duffel bag and opened fire. Police say they don't think the friend knew of the shooter's plans.

The FBI said a written letter in Ciancia's bag stated he wanted to kill multiple TSA agents and "instill fear in your traitorous minds." It wasn't clear why. He called himself a "pissed-off patriot" angry at former Dept. of Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano. He also mentioned the "NWO," a possible reference to the "new world order" conspiracy theory.

Officials released a report March 18 about the emergency response to the LAX shooting, citing several examples of breakdowns in communication. Officials plan to create alerts that automatically appear on cellphones, along with adding a universal public-address system and more accessible alarms at the airport.

Panic buttons inside LAX were broken and the emergency phone system didn't provide police with a location of the call, an AP investigation found. A supervisor at the airport picked up an emergency phone and fled before she could give police a location, leaving police without a location for the shooting.

Deceased TSA officer, 39-year old Gerardo Hernandez, was the first agency employee to be killed in the line of duty in its 12-year history. (TSA was established following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.) A Nov. 22 autopsy report showed he had been shot 12 times.

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"The sad truth is that our TSA officers are subject to daily verbal assaults and far too frequent physical attacks. We feel a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas would be a positive step." Jeffrey David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees

The American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing TSA officers, supports creating a "new class of TSA officers" with the authority of law enforcement agents, including the ability to be armed and make arrests.

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