A Transportation Security Administration officer who was shot and killed at Los Angeles International Airport was remembered Tuesday as a dedicated worker who greeted travelers and co-workers with a "warm smile."
About 300 blue-uniformed TSA officers attended the service at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena for Gerardo Hernandez, a 39 -year-old husband and father of two children who was shot and killed during a lone gunman's rampage Nov. 1 at LAX Terminal 3. He is the first TSA officer killed the line of duty since the agency was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
TSA Administrator John S. Pistole called Hernandez an admired member of the agency.
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"He was not only well liked, but well respected," said Pistole.
Family, friends and members of several law enforcement agencies attended the service. They passed a U.S. flag that suspended from the extended ladders of two fire department trucks parked curbside in front of the arena.
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to an audience that included a large group of TSA employees seated shoulder-to-shoulder. They faced a portrait of a smiling Hernandez on that Sports Arena stage.
"We will not rest until justice has been done and we will do all in our power to make sure those responsible will be held accountable," Holder said. "His story will inspire generations of public servants."
Hernandez family friend Ceasar Perez told mourners he was "honored and privileged" to have known Hernandez.
"He left this world with no loose ends," Perez said. "I say this because I know how strong and united this family is. He touched so many lives and was so full of spirit."
"Learn to be like Gerardo."
TSA Supervisory Officer Sheleta Fraser called Hernandez a dedicated officer whose good nature was a calming influence amid the bustle of the nation's third-largest airport. He usually had kind words for anyone who passed through his checkpoint.
"His colleagues in Terminal 3, passengers, LAX vendors and airline employees knew him as a man whose warm smile and humorous nature made them feel at ease," said Fraser. "He took pride in his duty to the TSA mission and to the American public."
The TSA Chorus performed at the memorial. The group, formed in 2003, has performed at Veterans Day ceremonies and in LAX airport terminals during the holidays.
After the service, a procession led by police vehicles traveled to LAX. Two rows of TSA employees stood in salute as the procession completed a loop on the upper-level road.
On Friday, TSA officers and travelers at airports across the country observed a moment of silence for Hernandez, who would have turned 40 on Sunday. On Wednesday, colleagues stood in salute outside LAX as part of a U.S. Honor Flag Ceremony in memory of Hernandez at LAX.
Flowers, candles and other items have been left at a memorial for Hernandez near the LAX checkpoint where her was killed.
Hernandez was working at a lower-level passenger checkpoint Nov. 1 when Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, allegedly shot him at point-blank range. The gunman removed a semi-automatic rifle from his bag at the checkpoint, shot Hernandez, then returned when he noticed him moving, according to court documents.
"He protected his team," said TSA Supervisory Officer Danielle Arocho. "He sacrficed his life. He's our hero.
"Terminal 3 will forever have a guardian angel looking over it."
Ciancia was shot multiple times during a confrontation inside the terminal with airport police. A note found with Ciancia stated he planned to kills TSA officers, according to federal authorities.
Ciancia remains hospitalized in fair condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He faces a charge of murder of a federal official and commission of violence at a U.S. airport.
Memorial Service Speakers List:
- TSA Supervisory Officer Sheleta Fraser, LAX (emcee)
- Father Paul Griesgraber, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Reseda, Calif.
- TSA Federal Security Director Darby LaJoye, LAX
- Ceasar Perez, Hernandez family friend
- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
- TSA Administrator John S. Pistole
- TSA Assistant Federal Security Director Jason Pantages, LAX
- TSA Supervisory Officer Danielle Arocho, LAX
- TSA Supervisory Officer Lisandro Jimenez, LAX
- Attorney General Eric Holder
- Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers