Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty in LAX Shooting Rampage

Paul Ciancia pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the shooting death of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez in November 2013

Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the man charged with gunning down a Transportation Security Administration officer in a November 2013 shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport, according to court papers filed Friday.

Prosecutors said Paul Ciancia, 24, acted intentionally Nov. 1, 2013 in the killing of the airport screening officer and terrorized passengers and colleagues of the fallen man. Ciancia has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the killing of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, 39, and the wounding of three other people at LAX. 

The New Jersey native is due in court Monday for a hearing on the status of his case.

In court papers filed Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wrote, "Ciancia acted with the intent that his crimes would strike fear in the hearts of Transportation Security Administration employees and dissuade them from fulfillment of their duties. By committing his crimes on a weekday morning in a crowded terminal at one of the busiest airports in the world, ...Ciancia terrorized numerous airline passengers and airport employees by causing them to fear for their lives and experience extreme emotional distress."

The shooting caused chaos and terror as security screeners fled their posts among a hail of bullets and passengers ran for cover. The airport was crippled for most of the day and flights across the country were interrupted.

After allegedly opening fire on Hernandez at a screening checkpoint inside an LAX terminal, the gunman shot two more agents and an airline traveler, according to authorities. He used a semi-automatic rifle that he pulled from a duffel back at the checkpoint, investigators said.

The document filed Friday characterized Hernandez as a "husband, father, and employee with the Transportation Security Administration, who enjoyed a strong relationship with his family and co-workers."

His family and colleagues suffered "severe and irreparable harm," the document continued.

Although officers quickly shot Ciancia and arrested him, it took hours for officers to search the rest of the airport and determine there were no additional gunmen. Ciancia was found with a note indicating plans to kill TSA agents and "instill fear in their traitorous minds," authorities said.

The decision to seek the death penalty was up to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after a review of thousands of piece of evidence in the investigation. A judge wants the case to be tried this year, but the death penalty decision could lead to delays.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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