Feedback
News

Suspected LA airport gunman planned 'suicide' mission: Congressman

Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is accused of a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. NBC News

The suspected gunman facing a murder charge after rampaging Friday through Los Angeles International Airport apparently planned a ‘suicide mission,’ saying in a note that he intended to die after murdering at least one Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer, a leading lawmaker said Sunday.

Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, also discussed vulnerabilities in airport security measures in a note before the horrific assault Friday, said Michael McCaul, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.

"It’s clearly one of those notes that reads, ‘I’m going to kill people and I don’t want to kill civilians,’ with the idea that he’s going to die at the end of this,” according to McCaul, who told CNN that he had read the alleged note.

McCaul added that the note “talks a lot about killing TSA agents, and he said, ‘If I just kill one, my mission is accomplished.’”

Ciancia, who told authorities that he acted alone and had been dropped off at the airport by an unidentified roommate before staging the deadly attack, is accused of fatally shooting a TSA officer — the first employee of the agency to die in the line of duty since it was launched 12 years ago — and wounding two others, according to TSA Administrator John Pistole.

The two injured officers — 9-year TSA veteran Tony Grigsby, 36, who was grazed by a bullet near his foot; and 5-year TSA veteran James Speer, who was shot in the shoulder — are home resting and are expected to recover, according to Pistole.

Related: Roommate dropped off alleged shooter

Airport police who rushed to the scene shot and wounded the gunman amid the chaos, bringing the rampage to a close.

He was heavily sedated and being closely observed by an armed guard at a hospital Sunday, the Associated Press reported, citing an anonymous law enforcement source briefed on the ongoing investigation. Law enforcement sources said he was in critical but stable condition after being shot in the face numerous times and suffering significant injuries to his jaw, mouth and tongue.

In a criminal complaint filed Saturday, investigators said they discovered a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia in his duffel bag that targeted TSA officials, and which included a threat to “instill fear in your traitorous minds.”

It was not immediately clear Sunday whether McCaul was referring to the same note discussed in the criminal complaint.

Authorities said the gunman entered the secure area of the airport through a gateway normally used by travelers exiting the terminal, pulled out a semiautomatic .223-caliber rifle and opened fire on unarmed TSA workers at a checkpoint.

The criminal complaint says that Ciancia shot the TSA agent who was killed, then began walking up an escalator but returned to shoot the agent again.

Still firing, he continued walking through Terminal 3 of the airport, where police shot him several times in the chest. He was taken into custody in critical condition.

The TSA confirmed the identity of the slain officer as 39-year-old Gerardo I. Hernandez, according to an agency official. Hernandez is the first officer to have been killed in the line of duty in the agency's 12-year history.

Travelers are screened byTransportation Security Administration agents after Terminal 3 was re-opened a day after a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport November 2. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

The shooting started about 9:20 a.m. (12:20 p.m. ET) at Terminal 3, which serves Virgin America and other airlines.

When the gunfire erupted, travelers who were waiting to snake through the security line abandoned suitcases and hit the ground.

The FBI announced it was using crowdsourcing methods to sufficiently understand and document Friday’s disturbing sequence of events, according to NBC Los Angeles.

The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles has charged Ciancia with slaying a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport — crimes that carry the threat of execution, if Ciancia is convicted.

McCaul said that Ciancia intended to demonstrate what he viewed as lenient security measures at major airports.

"The other thing he wanted to talk about was how easy it is to bring a gun into an airport and do something just like he did," McCaul said about the note.

McCaul also said that police had actually paid a visit Ciancia's house after being alerted by concerned family members, but he had already departed for the airport about 45 minutes earlier.

Ciancia's father — who lives in Pennsville Township, New Jersey — contacted local police before the shooting began, after Ciancia, who moved to California 18 months ago and lives in suburban Los Angeles, sent his brother an alarming text message.

McCaul said police in Pennsville contacted Los Angeles police, who then "visited the suspect's home the morning of the shooting and missed him by literally, probably, 45 minutes."

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department said she was unable to confirm or deny McCaul’s claim on Sunday.

In a tweet on its verified account, the Los Angeles Airport Police Division warned passengers to brace for delays on Sunday as the airport resumes "full operations." 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Related: