LOS ANGELES — The gunman charged in the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport lay bloodied and handcuffed on the floor of Terminal 3 after being shot by police, but he replied to critical questions that helped authorities lock down the scene, a law enforcement official who has been briefed on the investigation said Sunday.
Paul Ciancia, 23, was hauled away moments later on a stretcher and later heavily sedated for medical reasons, but not before he told investigators he had acted alone when he opened fire in the terminal, the official said.
Ciancia, an unemployed motorcycle mechanic who recently moved to Los Angeles from the small, blue-collar town of Pennsville, N.J., also told police a friend had dropped him at the airport on Friday just moments before he shot a Transportation Security Administration officer at close range and wounded three other people, including two more TSA workers.
Officials do not believe the friend knew of the shooter’s plans. Ciancia arrived at the airport in a black vehicle and was not a ticketed passenger.
Ciancia was under 24-hour armed guard at the hospital Sunday after being shot four times, the official said.
He was sedated for medical reasons, the official said, adding that one gunshot to the mouth blew a molar out of his jaw.
Ciancia is facing charges of murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport. He could face the death penalty.
It was not immediately clear when he would make a court appearance given his medical condition.
In court documents and interviews, authorities spelled out a chilling chain of events, saying Ciancia walked into the airport, pulled a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle from his duffel bag, and fired repeatedly at 39-year-old TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez. He turned back to see Hernandez move and returned to finish him off, according to surveillance video reviewed by investigators.
He then fired on two other uniformed TSA employees and an airline passenger, who all were wounded, as he moved methodically through the security checkpoint before airport police shot him as panicked travelers hid in stores and restaurants.
It wasn’t clear why Ciancia targeted TSA officers, but what he left behind indicated he was willing to kill any of them that crossed his path, authorities revealed.
The shooter’s duffel bag contained a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia stating he had “made the conscious decision to try to kill” multiple TSA employees and that he wanted to “instill fear in their traitorous minds,” FBI Agent in Charge David L. Bowdich said.
“Black, white, yellow, brown, I don’t discriminate,” the note read, according to a paraphrase by a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The screed also mentioned “fiat currency” and “NWO,” possible references to the New World Order, a conspiracy theory that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.
The letter also talked about “how easy it is to get a gun into the airport,” the law enforcement official said.
When searched, the suspect had five 30-round magazines, and his bag contained hundreds more rounds in boxes, authorities said.
US Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that Ciancia’s actions show how difficult it is to protect travelers at massive airports.