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2013 LAX Shooter Expected to Plead Guilty

A man is expected to plead guilty today to federal charges stemming from the 2013 attack that left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead and three others wounded at Los Angeles International Airport.

Paul Ciancia will enter his plea to 11 felony counts stemming from the Nov. 1, 2013, shootings in the airport’s Terminal 3, including the murder of TSA Officer Gerardo I. Hernandez.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, but the murder charge to which Ciancia will plead carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Weapons charges carry another mandatory 60 years in prison, in addition to several years behind bars for other charges.

Marshall McClain, director of the union that represents airport police officers, said he hoped Hernandez’s family members would find some relief as a result of the plea.

“We hope the plea agreement will help Officer Gerardo Hernandez’s family heal and brings some closure to them from this horrific tragedy,” he said.

Ciancia, now 26, is accused of walking into Terminal 3 at LAX and opening fire with a semiautomatic rifle while carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition, along with a signed handwritten note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and “instill fear in your 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 New Jersey native, who had been living in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles for about 18 months, was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. Federal prosecutors have cited Ciancia’s “substantial planning and premeditation.”

Ciancia purchased his weapon almost seven months prior to the attack and concealed it on the day of the shooting by tying two pieces of luggage together to create a carrying case, court papers show.

According to the plea agreement, Ciancia sent text messages to his brother and sister while he was being driven to the airport on the morning of the attack. In one, he called himself a “patriot.”

“I’m so sorry that I have to leave you pre-maturely, but it is for the greater good of humanity,” he wrote to his brother. “This was the purpose I was brought here.”

To his sister, Ciancia wrote that he had to “stand up to these tyrants,” and asked her not to let the media distort his actions.

“There wasn’t a terrorist attack on Nov. 1,” he wrote. “There was a pissed off patriot trying to water the tree of liberty.”

After he shot Hernandez at a passenger ID checkpoint and the officer fell to the ground, Ciancia got on an escalator heading into the terminal. When he saw Hernandez still moving, Ciancia went back and shot the officer repeatedly, prosecutors said. Hernandez was shot a total of 12 times.     Moving back into the terminal, Ciancia shot TSA Officers Tony Leroy Grigsby and James Maurice Speer, along with a civilian, Brian Ludmer.

Ciancia continued into terminal but was shot in the neck and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He spent two weeks recovering at a hospital before he was transferred to a federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles, where he remains in custody.

U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez will set a sentencing date once Ciancia enters his guilty plea today.

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