LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A judge has heard arguments but not yet issued his ruling on a defense request to suppress post-arrest statements made by the 25-year-old suspect accused in a deadly shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport.
Paul Anthony Ciancia — originally from New Jersey but who had been living in Sun Valley for 18 months at the time of the incident — could be executed if he is convicted of killing federal Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo Hernandez during the attack, which also left three other people wounded — two other TSA workers and one traveler — on Nov. 1, 2013.
It was not immediately known when U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez would rule on the issue.
Gutierrez previously said jury selection, marking the start of the trial, would start next August. Defense attorneys had requested a December 2016 trial date, but federal prosecutors argued that a delay past August 2016 would be unfair to Hernandez’s widow and other victims.
Ciancia’s lawyers signaled they plan to raise mental health issues before the jury in an effort to save their client from execution.
Hernandez lived in Porter Ranch and was the father of two. His wife and other family members spoke briefly on Nov. 7 from the family’s San Fernando Valley home, describing the slain security agent as a loving family man who enjoyed joking and was proud of his “job and contribution to this country.”
Ana Hernandez said her husband was a hard worker who came to the US from El Salvador at age 15 and had hoped to rise up among the ranks. “He took pride in his duty for the American public and for the TSA mission,” she said.
Authorities allege Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 at LAX and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. He was allegedly carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition, along with a handwritten, signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and David Bowdich, FBI special agent in charge in Los Angeles, “instill fear in their traitorous minds.”
Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.
The first TSA agent to be killed in the line of duty, Hernandez was working in the prescreening area, the first line of defense in the ticketing hall. David Bowdich, FBI special agent in charge in Los Angeles, said video showed Ciancia shooting Hernandez multiple times and at point blank range” before going up a short escalator to the inspection area.
He then walked back down to again shoot Hernandez, according to Bowdich.
Ciancia was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He is jailed without bail at the federal detention center in downtown L.A.
Federal investigators obtained a warrant authorizing them to conduct a digital search of Ciancia’s cell phone, which was found inside the car of the roommate who drove him to the airport, according to a court affidavit.
Prosecutors previously told the judge they had accumulated more than 10,000 pages and 150 DVDs of discovery in the case, including material collected during a probe of Ciancia’s background in the small town of Pennsville, New Jersey, which they have presented to the defense.