Federal prosecutors filed charges of murder and commission of violence at an international airport against the unemployed motorcycle mechanic suspected of carrying out the deadly shooting at the Los Angeles airport.
If convicted, Paul Ciancia could get the death penalty. He was arrested Friday after authorities say he barged into a terminal, pulled an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle from his duffel bag and opened fire. The bullets killed a Transportation Security Administration officer and injured four others before Ciancia, 23, was shot by airport police.
The killing was “believed to be a premeditated act of murder in the first degree,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in announcing the charges.
Authorities believe someone dropped Ciancia off at the airport, and agents are reviewing surveillance tapes and other evidence to piece together the sequence of events.
“We are really going to draw a picture of who this person was, his background, his history. That will help us explain why he chose to do what he did,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David L. Bowdich said.
The suspect appeared determined to lash out at the TSA, saying in a note that he wanted to kill at least one TSA officer and didn’t care which one, authorities said.
Authorities identified the dead TSA officer as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, the first TSA official in the agency’s 12-year history to be killed in the line of duty.
It’s not clear why Ciancia targeted the agency, but the note found in his duffel bag suggested the unemployed motorcycle mechanic was willing to kill almost any officer he could confront.
“Black, white, yellow, brown, I don’t discriminate,” the note read, according to a paraphrase by a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The suspect’s screed also mentioned “fiat currency” and “NWO,” possible references to the New World Order, a conspiracy theory that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.
Ciancia, who was shot four times by airport police, remained hospitalized Saturday, but there was no word on his condition. He was wounded in the mouth and the leg, authorities said.
Terminal 3, the area where the shooting happened, reopened Saturday afternoon. Passengers who had abandoned luggage to escape Friday’s gunfire were allowed to return to collect their bags.