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No Decision in Possible Death Penalty for Accused LAX Shooter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fred Shuster   
Thursday, 30 January 2014 17:46

LOS ANGELES - A prosecutor said today no decision will immediately be made on whether the Justice Department will seek the death penalty against the 23-year-old suspect accused of going on a shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport that resulted in the death of a TSA agent.

Paul Anthony Ciancia, bandaged on the neck and chained at the wrists, waist and ankles, appeared this afternoon for the first time at the downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse where his trial will eventually take place.

He appeared twice previously in a courtroom at a San Bernardino County jail medical facility, where he has been housed since Nov. 18. U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ordered that Ciancia remain at the medical facility until he is well enough to be moved to the Los Angeles federal detention center. Federal public defense attorney Hilary L. Potashner told the court that her client weighed less than 100 pounds and was not yet "medically stable'' for the transfer.

A further status conference was set for March 3. Gutierrez asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald when a death penalty decision might be reached. The prosecutor indicated it was up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether death is an appropriate penalty in the case, and no timetable for that decision had been set.

Three charges in the 11- count indictment against Ciancia carry the potential for a death sentence: murder of a federal officer, Transportation Security Administration agent Gerardo Hernandez, use of a firearm that led to the murder, and act of violence in an international airport, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. The judge said trial would be delayed until a decision had been made.

Ciancia, a Pennsville, N.J. native who had been living in Sun Valley for about two years, is accused of storming into Terminal 3 last Nov. 1 with an assault rifle, killing Hernandez and wounding three others -- two other TSA workers and one traveler. He reportedly carried a handwritten rant about killing TSA workers and carried dozens of rounds of ammunition.

In court, the elfin Ciancia sat quietly next to Potashner, looking straight ahead during the brief hearing. Authorities allege Ciancia shot Hernandez at a lowerlevel LAX passenger check-in station and began walking upstairs, but returned when he realized Hernandez was still alive and shot him again. In addition to first-degree murder, the indictment charges Ciancia with two counts of attempted murder for the shootings of TSA officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer. Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas teacher, was also wounded. Ciancia is also charged with committing acts of violence at an international airport, one count of using a firearm to commit murder, and three counts of brandishing and discharging a firearm. During the shooting, Ciancia was allegedly carrying a signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and "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. Ciancia was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He spent more than two weeks at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center before he was moved to the San Bernardino jail medical facility.

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