A gunman who went on a deadly rampage at Los Angeles International Airport bore a grudge against government security agents and had sent a suicide text message to a sibling earlier in the day, officials said yesterday.
Toting a semi-automatic rifle and some 150 rounds of ammunition, Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, New Jersey, allegedly shot his way past a security checkpoint in Terminal 3 shortly after 9am on Friday, sending hundreds of travellers fleeing in terror.
When the shooting eventually stopped, one Transportation Security Administration officer was dead and five other people were hurt, including two other TSA employees and the gunman.
Ciancia was shot four times, including in the mouth and a leg, by airport police and remained in hospital. There was no word on his condition.
A law-enforcement official said the gunman was dressed in fatigues and carried at least five full 30-round magazines of ammunition. In his bag he had a one-page, handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and "pigs".
Some witnesses and authorities said the gunman ignored anyone except TSA targets. The official said the note referred to how the gunman believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches and that he was a "pissed-off patriot" upset at former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano.
On Friday, Ciancia's father in New Jersey had called authorities for help in finding his son after the young man sent one of his siblings a mobile-phone text message about committing suicide, Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said.
The chief said he called Los Angeles police, who sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. There, two roommates said they had seen him a day earlier and he had appeared to be fine.
An estimated 1,550 scheduled arriving and departing flights with about 167,000 passengers were affected by the incident, according to the airport.
Among them were the 274 passengers of Hong Kong-bound Cathay Pacific Flight CX885, which was delayed for 14 hours in Los Angeles.
Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was the first TSA officer in the agency's 12-year history to be killed in the line of duty.
The agency was founded in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
US President Barack Obama called the head of the TSA to express his condolences to the families and friends of the dead and injured officers.
The investigation into the attack will probe the shooting itself as well as the gunman's background and possible motivations, said Special Agent David Bowdich of the FBI. "Our goal is to do a true scrub on the individual to find out what was the tipping point for this person," he said.
Tom Ridge, former secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, said he did not think security changes at airports could help prevent such an incident from happening again.
Ridge said he opposed the idea of arming TSA agents, who are tasked with screening air passengers.
Arming them "requires a level of sophistication and law-enforcement training, and at the end of the day, I'm not sure it's going to make that much of a difference," he said.
Associated Press, Reuters