A Sun Valley, California, man was sentenced today to life plus 60 years in prison for 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 C. 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 on Sept. 6, 2016, 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. U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the Central District of California imposed today’s sentence.
“Today, justice was done on behalf of fallen TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, his wounded colleagues and all those who were terrorized by the wanton violence perpetrated by this defendant,” said Attorney General Lynch. “This sentence reflects appropriate punishment for a heinous crime. It ensures that the defendant can never again harm or murder innocent Americans. And it sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate calculated attacks on our nation’s law enforcement officers, and that those who do commit such crimes will be held accountable.”
“We are grateful to the FBI and the Department of Justice for their hard work in obtaining justice for Mr. Hernandez, his family, co-workers and the men and women of DHS,” said Secretary Johnson.
“The crimes that led to today’s sentence were vicious, horrific and senseless,” said U.S. Attorney Decker. “After planning a mass murder, this defendant murdered a highly respected law enforcement officer, seriously wounded two other federal officers and a civilian and terrified hundreds of people who feared for their lives. Those who target law enforcement and our nation's critical infrastructure will be held accountable. As a result of today’s sentence, Mr. Ciancia will never again have a chance to harm other innocent people.”
“The defendant will spend the rest of his life behind bars for targeting airport officers with premeditated murder, but a just sentence cannot replace the loss of Officer Hernandez, nor remove the suffering of his victims, and his victims' families, friends and colleagues,” said Assistant Director in Charge Fike. “The collaborative efforts by first responders and investigators on the day of the shooting and thoughout this investigation are commendable and aided prosecutors in ensuring that Mr. Ciancia can never again pose a threat.”
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 two TSA Officers as well as a civilian, 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 Case Section prosecuted the case.