The source of Ciancia’s apparent hostility toward the TSA remained unclear and puzzling. But a statement filed in court by the FBI gave the first detailed account of how the shootings unfolded.
According to the FBI, Ciancia entered the airport’s Terminal 3 about 9:20 a.m. and approached the security checkpoint. Pulling a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber M&P-15 assault rifle from his bag, he fired multiple times at point-blank range at Hernandez, who was on duty and in uniform, leaving the screener wounded.
Then, after starting up an escalator, Ciancia looked back at Hernandez, who appeared to move. Ciancia then went back to shoot him again. the statement said.Hernandez was fatally wounded.
Ciancia then shot at “at least” two more TSA employees and one airline passenger, wounding all three, before two pursuing Los Angeles Airport Police officers wounded him, the FBI said.
In a bag that Ciancia had at the airport, the FBI said, other law enforcement officers found a handwritten letter, signed by the suspect, saying that he had “made the conscious decision to try to kill” TSA employees. Ciancia’s possessions at the scene “included five magazine clips” of ammunition.
Ciancia was taken to a hospital; an FBI spokesman said no information about his condition was being released Saturday night.
The gunfire sent panic through the nation’s third-busiest airport and disrupted air traffic there along with the travel plans of thousands of would-be passengers throughout the nation. The airport was fully reopened on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
On Saturday, Hernandez’s wife spoke to reporters outside her Los Angeles area home, describing him as a “wonderful husband, father, brother, son and friend.”
She said her husband, who was about to turn 40, had come to the United States at age 15 from El Salvador and “took pride in his duty for the American public.”
Still unclear Saturday was what had led Ciancia to make the TSA his alleged target, but there were signs of psychological trouble. According to an account from police in the New Jersey town where he grew up, Ciancia had sent a text message to his brother indicating that he might harm himself.
The message had aroused enough concern to prompt his father on Friday to get authorities to check on him in Los Angeles, where he was living.
“I understand that they tried to reach him,” said a neighbor of Ciancia’s father in New Jersey, “but they missed him.”
The incident also raised questions about airport security and the possible mixture of mental illness and weapons, as well as about Ciancia’s state of mind.