Accused Los Angeles airport gunman ordered held without bond

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 04, 2013 2:40 PM

By Dana Feldman

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California (Reuters) - A California man accused of opening fire at Los Angeles International Airport last month, killing a federal security screener and wounding three other people, was ordered held without bond on Wednesday, pending trial.

A federal judge said he was denying bail for Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, because he posed a danger to the community and represented a potential flight risk, prosecutors said in a statement.

Ciancia, who was wounded by police during the shooting incident at one of the world's busiest airports, is charged with killing a Transportation Security Administration officer and committing an act of violence at an international airport.

Because of his injuries, the slightly built Ciancia had been prevented from making an initial court appearance in the days following his arrest after the November 1 shooting. He could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

With bruises and healing cuts still visible on his face and neck, he was arraigned on Wednesday during a hearing at a jail facility in Rancho Cucamonga, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, where he is being held. He did not enter a plea.

Ciancia is accused of walking into Terminal 3 at the airport, removing an assault-style rifle from a bag and opening fire on an unarmed TSA agent standing at the entrance to security checkpoint.

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

At Wednesday's 11-minute arraignment, Ciancia appeared wearing a green jumpsuit and beige sweatshirt, with an apparent tracheotomy collar around his neck, according to a sketch of the defendant made from inside the hearing room.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bristow read him his rights. In a raspy and barely audible voice, Ciancia answered the judge's questions during the hearing, at one point nodding affirmatively when asked whether he understood the proceedings, according to a pool report.

His lawyers said they were not requesting bail for the time being, and the judge said that bond was in any case denied.

The shooting sparked a 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 rampage, 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez, became the first TSA employee slain in the line of duty since the agency was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman, Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Scott Malone, John Wallace and Gunna Dickson)