The man who opened fire inside a Los Angeles International Airport terminal in 2013, killing a TSA officer and wounding three other people, was bent on committing mass murder and should be sentenced to life behind bars, a federal prosecutor wrote in court papers obtained by City News Service.
Paul Ciancia “plotted to commit mass murder at one of the nation’s foremost transportation hubs, murdered a beloved public servant in cold blood, seriously injured two other federal officers whom he shot and was attempting to kill, shot and injured a passenger who was traveling to attend a wedding, and terrified hundreds of other passengers and employees at LAX who feared for their lives and the safety of their families,” according to the document filed in advance of Ciancia’s Nov. 7 sentencing hearing in downtown Los Angeles.
The prosecution is asking that U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez impose a life sentence on Ciancia for the murder of Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, plus an additional 60 years for shooting and wounding TSA Officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer, and teacher Brian Ludmer, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wrote.
The prosecutor wrote that while the court “cannot issue an order that will fully heal a shattered limb, erase the memory of painful injuries and resulting surgeries, provide a deceased husband’s caress to his widow, or restore the dead to life,” it can impose “a just sentence.”
Fitzgerald also asked that the judge not make a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons as to the facility in which to incarcerate the 26-year-old Ciancia for the rest of his life.
“This decision will require the Bureau of Prisons to balance several important factors, including considerations of facility security and the safety of federal prison workers in light of defendant’s mental condition and the fact that he continues to subscribe to the belief structure that contributed to the commission of his crimes,” the prosecutor wrote.
Ciancia pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to 11 felony counts of murder and other charges, the result of a plea agreement that will spare him the death penalty.
On Nov. 1, 2013, Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 at LAX and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle while carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition, along with a signed handwritten note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and “instill fear in your traitorous minds.”
Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.
The New Jersey native, an unemployed motorcycle mechanic who had been living in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles for about 18 months, was shot in the neck and leg during a gun battle with airport police.
Federal prosecutors cited Ciancia’s “substantial planning and premeditation.”
Ciancia purchased his weapon almost seven months prior to the attack and concealed it on the day of the shooting by tying two pieces of luggage together to create a carrying case, according to court records.
According to the plea agreement, Ciancia sent text messages to his brother and sister while he was being driven to the airport on the morning of the attack. In one, he called himself a “patriot.”
“I’m so sorry that I have to leave you prematurely, but it is for the greater good of humanity,” he wrote to his brother. “This was the purpose I was brought here.”
To his sister, Ciancia wrote that he had to “stand up to these tyrants,” and asked her not to let the media distort his actions.
“There wasn’t a terrorist attack on Nov. 1,” he wrote. “There was a pissed off patriot trying to water the tree of liberty.”
The evidence includes a two-page, handwritten, signed letter in which Ciancia wrote that he had “made a conscious decision to kill” TSA agents that morning, Fitzgerald said.
After he shot Hernandez at a passenger ID checkpoint and the officer fell to the ground, Ciancia got on an escalator heading into the terminal. When he saw Hernandez still moving, Ciancia went back and shot the officer repeatedly, prosecutors said. Hernandez was shot a total of 12 times.
Moving back into the terminal, Ciancia shot Grigsby, Speer and Ludmer. He continued into the terminal but was shot by police.
Ciancia spent two weeks recovering at a hospital before he was transferred to a federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles, where he remains in custody.
–City News Service