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Crazed LAX gunman closes whole airport for a day

November 4, 2013 Airport, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59America has entered the usual period of soul-searching after a lone gunman went on a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, shot several people, killed a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent and brought the airport to a standstill for most of the day.

Police eventually shot and arrested the alleged gunman, identified as Paul Ciancia, 23. He has been charged with murdering the TSA agent, Gerardo Hernandez, 39, after having allegedly run around the airport shooting with an assault rifle. Ciancia has also been charged with committing violence at an international airport. Both charges carry life imprisonment without parole – or the death penalty.

The gunman’s rampage, which started when he pulled an assault rifle from a bag on the lower level of LAX Terminal 3 and started shooting at 9.20am, triggered a massive police response and stranded thousands of passengers, many of whom had to wait for hours without water or food. Cancelled, delayed and diverted flights affected some 76,000 passengers, LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

Terminal 3 is Virgin Australia’s terminal, as well as serving Allegiant Air, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit and Virgin America.

Police closed roads around the airport. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued a “ground stop,” preventing flights that had not yet left their airports of origin from taking off for LAX. That lasted several hours and didn’t end until 4pm.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, 268 scheduled arrivals with some 20,000 passengers were affected. Roads and terminals started to reopen by late afternoon.

Reports say that as well as killing Hernandez, the gunman shot four other people, including another TSA agent. Ciancia had an apparent grudge against the government and seemed to be hunting for airport security officials.

The tragic case illustrates that, even in this age of heightened security, one gunman with a grievance can bring a whole airport – and one of America’s main international gateways – to a halt. One consolation is that Ciancia didn’t reach a plane – though that may not have been his intention.

LAX police chief Patrick Gannon said Ciancia made his way past the security checkpoint into the terminal before police managed to shoot him down and arrest him.

The New York Times reported that Ciancia was critically wounded when police shot him in the head.

As the paper vividly put it: “All around, the everyday drudgery of passing through security gates turned into terror, passengers running for their lives and abandoning luggage as heavily armed police officers ordered them to hit the floor for their own safety.”

While most foreign observers interpret such mayhem as stemming from psychotic or deeply aggrieved people getting hold of firearms in a country where that is relatively easy, America routinely goes through a period of soul-searching, trying to work it out.

Law enforcement officials were attempting over the weekend to establish some sort of  motive. The gunman was said to be an unemployed drifter. Reports said a handwritten letter found at the scene showed that Ciancia “made the conscious decision to try to kill” TSA employees.

Written by Peter Needham

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