Investigators probe motives of Los Angeles airport shooter

Reuters

By Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES, Nov 2 (Reuters) - FBI agents were on Saturdayprobing the background and possible motivation of a gunman whoopened fire at a packed terminal at Los Angeles InternationalAirport and shot dead an unarmed federal agent.

Authorities have identified the suspected shooter inFriday's attack as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, and they said hewas shot and wounded by police in an exchange of gunfire at theairport's Terminal 3.

Late on Friday, FBI agents armed with a search warrantcombed through Ciancia's home in the Los Angeles area, FBIspokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

The gunman was armed with an assault rifle and touched offpanic and chaos at one of the world's busiest airports. Hundredsof travelers ran frantically for safety or dove for cover behindluggage, and loud alarms blared.

The gunman, a U.S. citizen who appeared to be acting alone,pushed through the screening gates and ran into an area wherepassengers board flights, before law enforcement officers caughtup with him in a food court, Patrick Gannon, chief of the LosAngeles Airport Police, said at a news conference.

The officers shot him at least once and took him intocustody, he said.

The gunman shot at least two Transportation SecurityAdministration employees, one fatally, said Special Agent DavidBowdich of the FBI. The slain TSA agent, identified as39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez, was the first from the agency todie in the line of duty.

The FBI late on Friday could not provide a total number ofpeople shot in the attack, Eimiller said. Paramedics took fivepeople wounded at the scene of the shooting to area hospitals,Los Angeles Fire Department officials said. But they could notsay if all of those people were wounded by gunfire.

The Los Angeles Times reported that among the wounded wasBrian Ludmer, 29, who was shot in the leg and works as a highschool teacher in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas.

The investigation into the attack will probe the shootingitself as well as the gunman's background and possiblemotivations, Bowdich said on Friday. "Our goal is to do a truescrub on the individual to find out what was the tipping pointfor this person," he said.

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In New Jersey, police and FBI agents descended on Ciancia'sfamily's home in Pennsville Township.

Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said he had beencontacted by Ciancia's father before the shooting, prompted by aworrisome text message from the young man to his brother.

The police chief declined to elaborate on the nature of thetext message but said that family members told investigatorsthey had no previous indications that Ciancia, who moved toCalifornia about 18 months ago, was troubled.

A U.S. official who asked not to be identified said federalinvestigators were trying to determine if the gunman had beentargeting TSA agents in the rampage.

Tom Ridge, former secretary of the U.S. Department ofHomeland Security which oversees the TSA, said he did not thinksecurity changes at airports could help prevent such an incidentfrom happening again.

Ridge said in a phone interview he opposes the idea ofarming TSA agents, who are tasked with screening air passengers.

"That (arming them) requires a level of sophistication andlaw enforcement training, and at the end of the day, I'm notsure it's going to make that much of a difference," he said.

The incident affected an estimated 1,550 arriving anddeparting flights carrying over 167,000 passengers, airportspokeswoman Nancy Castles said in a statement.

A number of those flights were grounded or diverted aspolice evacuated passengers and shut down three terminals duringthe incident.

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