The hustle and bustle of Friday afternoons in Los Angeles International Airport usually represents the thriving airline industry, but on Friday, Nov. 1, it represented something much different. Around 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 1, 23-year-old Paul Ciancia walked into the Los Angeles International Airport and shot an on-duty TSA officer at point-blank range. Ciancia’s shooting did not end there. He proceeded to shoot two other people, including one more TSA officer. A total of seven people were injured during the terrifying sequence before police officers shot and severely wounded Ciancia, according to NBC News.
Ciancia was handcuffed and immediately taken to the hospital. He remains unresponsive and is listed in critical condition following his onslaught. As a result, Ciancia has been unable to provide law enforcement officials with any details concerning his motives or the events leading up to his assault. However, what officials do know is that he was carrying an assault rifle with roughly 100 rounds of ammunition for his weapon and several disturbing notes when he was finally apprehended. The notes, which appear to be written by Ciancia, contained “antigovernment and anti-TSA ramblings,” according to a senior federal official. The notes provided the first glimpses into Ciancia’s thought process and possible motives for these actions.
In addition to Ciancia’s notes, new leads developed later that day as Ciancia’s family members contacted police. His family reportedly called the police just hours after the shooting about some disturbing text messages that Ciancia had sent his younger brother. The nature of the texts alluded to Ciancia’s wish to harm himself, according to CNN. In Ciancia’s hometown of Pennsville, N.J., police chief Allen Cummings said that the word “suicide” was not included in the text message, but he noted that “the way it was written, [his family] had some concern about it.”
With possible mental instability and anti-governmental sentiments as factors, officials were quick to dispel any concerns about links to terroristic organizations. Officials have said that Ciancia appeared to be targeting TSA officers. FBI Special Agent in Charge David Bowdich noted that Ciancia “addressed [TSA officers] at one point in the letter and stated that he wanted to “instill fear into their traitorous minds.” The notes found on Ciancia bore this phrase along with other similarly inflammatory language.
Friday’s attack was the first time a TSA officer had ever been killed in the line of duty since they were implemented in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. TSA officers are not equipped with firearms in airports but, following this attack, some have called that policy into question. No official statement regarding any potential changes to their no-firearms policy was immediately available.
Ciancia will face two felony charges including murder of a federal officer and commission of violence in an international airport. With his trial and subsequent testimony, officials hope to gain insight into his motives and, more importantly, insight towards preventing future attacks.
Information from CNN and NBC News were used in this report.