Prosecutors want accused LA airport gunman held without bail

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 03, 2013 5:18 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Prosecutors asked a federal magistrate judge on Tuesday to deny bail for a California man accused of opening fire at Los Angeles International Airport last month, killing a security agent and wounding three other people.

Federal prosecutors said in court papers filed a day ahead of an initial court appearance for Paul Anthony Ciancia that he should be jailed without bond until trial because he represented a flight risk and danger to the community.

Ciancia, 23, is charged with killing a federal officer from the Transportation Security Administration and committing an act of violence at an international airport, and could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

He is accused of walking into Terminal 3 of the sprawling Los Angeles airport, one of the world's busiest, removing an assault-style rifle from a bag and opening fire on a TSA agent standing at the entrance to security checkpoint.

Authorities say he then went past metal detectors through the checkpoint and into the passenger-boarding area, shooting and wounding two other TSA employees and a traveler before he was critically wounded in a gunfight with airport police.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said the high-profile defendant was not expected to enter a plea during his initial court appearance on Wednesday at a federal detention center in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

During the hearing, a federal magistrate judge will formally advise Ciancia of the charges against him, set future court dates and take up the issue of bond, Mrozek said.

Ciancia, whose condition has improved since he was shot by police following the November 1 attack, had been prevented by his injuries from making an initial court appearance in the days following his arrest.

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Ciancia's lead public defense attorney, Hilary Potashner, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Los Angeles shooting sparked debate over the safety of unarmed screeners at U.S. airports and the efficacy of allowing passengers and members of the public to freely roam ticketing areas and other parts of terminals beyond secure zones where they must be screened.

The officer killed in the attack, 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez, became the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty since the agency was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Phil Berlowitz)