A Sun Valley, California, man pleaded guilty today to charges related to a 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in which he murdered a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Secretary Jeh Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California and Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of murder of a federal officer; two counts of attempted murder of a federal officer; four counts of violence at an international airport; one count of discharging of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death; and three counts of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, before U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the Central District of California.
“The 2013 murder of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez was a tragic and reprehensible act of violence,” said Attorney General Lynch. “With this guilty plea, the Department of Justice is making clear that wrongdoers who target our nation's brave law enforcement officers will be held accountable for their crimes. I want to thank the many federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who contributed to this critical investigation - including my colleagues in the ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service - and I want to once again express the Justice Department's unwavering support for the brave men and women who wear the badge.”
“Our Transportation Security Officers put their lives on the line each and every day to keep the flying public safe,” said Secretary Johnson. “We still remember the awful day that Officer Gerardo Hernandez became known as the first slain-on-duty officer. Today's threat environment demands that we all remain vigilant, and this guilty plea should remind everyone that if you harm one of our officers, you will be brought to justice.”
“The guilty pleas entered in court today will hopefully bring some justice to the victims of this horrific attack that senselessly ended the life of a federal officer and injured several others,” said U.S. Attorney Decker. “Mr. Ciancia now faces a life-without-parole sentence in federal prison, ensuring he will be punished for his crimes and never again have the ability to harm other innocent people. Today’s guilty plea is also a reminder of the tremendous acts of bravery and heroism demonstrated by law enforcement at LAX on the day of the shooting. I commend the hundreds of law enforcement personnel from the Los Angeles Airport Police, the Los Angeles Police Department, the TSA, the FBI and many other agencies who responded to this incident, conducted a thorough and professional investigation and played a key role in reaching today’s resolution.”
“Mr. Ciancia’s guilty plea is a welcome development toward reaching justice for the victims of this violent attack, one of whom was murdered as he carried out his duties as a TSA officer, and several others who were wounded when Mr. Ciancia brutally targeted them with his weapon,” said Assistant Director in Charge Fike. “I’m proud of the JTTF members and prosecutors for their diligence over the past few years in getting to this point.”
According to the plea agreement, in early 2013, Ciancia purchased a semiautomatic rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and 10 magazines for the rifle. On the morning of Nov. 1, 2013, Ciancia modified two pieces of luggage and zip-tied them together to conceal his loaded rifle inside.
Ciancia admitted that later that morning, he entered LAX Terminal Three, removed the loaded rifle from his modified luggage and fired at and killed TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez while he was checking passengers’ travel documents. Ciancia admitted that he then went upstairs to a TSA checkpoint, by which time many TSA officers and passengers had fled the airport. He fired his weapon at TSA Officers Tony Leroy Grigsby and James Maurice Speer as well as a civilian, Brian Ludmer, he admitted, all of whom sustained serious injuries and required surgery but survived the attack. According to the plea agreement, as Ciancia passed passengers hiding in or fleeing the terminal during the attack, he asked if they were TSA and when they said no, he passed without shooting at them.
The Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) investigated the case. The JTTF is led by the FBI and includes agents and officers from 45 other local, state and federal agencies.
The Los Angeles Airport Police; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; TSA; the Federal Air Marshal Service; the Los Angeles Port Police; the Long Beach, California, Police Department; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Secret Service; the Los Angeles Fire Department; Los Angeles International Airport Operations; the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations provided substantial assistance in the investigation.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick R. Fitzgerald of the Central District of California, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills of the Central District of California’s Terrorism and Export Crimes Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanna M. Curtis of the Central District of California’s Violent and Organized Crime Section and Trial Attorney Michael S. Warbel of the Criminal Division’s Capital Crimes Section prosecuted the case.