LOS ANGELES — The former roommate of the man accused of killing a Transportation Security Administration agent at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday said he was “absolutely shocked” and that the incident didn’t square with what he knew of the 23-year-old New Jersey native.
John Mincey told KABC-TV on Friday that Paul Anthony Ciancia – identified by police as the LAX shooter – never spoke of “any kind of hatred, or any hatred group, or anything like that.”
“I’m absolutely shocked,” Mincey said. “I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it because from knowing this guy, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Ciancia remained in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center as of 8 a.m. Saturday. He was shot in the leg and head by an LAX police officer and sergeant after he opened fire in Terminal 3 shortly after 9 a.m., authorities said.
At least three TSA officers were shot, officials said. One of them, Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, died.
“No words can explain the horror that we experienced today when a shooter took the life of a member of our family,” agency administrator John Pistole wrote in a letter Friday.
In Porter Ranch, Hernandez’s family remained inside, asking for privacy as they mourned their loss. But a trickle of neighbors offered memories.
One neighbor, who declined to give his name, said Hernandez paid him a visit after the neighbor’s home was burglarized. He offered help and gave tips on installing security and surveillance. Hernandez’s home was burglarized soon after.
“He was a very nice man,” the neighbor said.
Another neighbor said Hernandez would chat – and sometimes commiserate – about being government employees. It was rough, Hernandez would say, getting up early enough to be at his post at the airport by 3 a.m.
“It’s devastating because he was such a great guy,” one of Hernandez’s friends, Kevin Maxwell, told KNBC. Maxwell said Hernandez was a “very proud” father of a boy and a girl.
Authorities declined to discuss the gunman’s motivation. But a law enforcement official told The Los Angeles Times that a note was found on Ciancia expressing “disappointment in the government” and saying that he had no interest in hurting “innocent people.”
Another law enforcement official told The Times that investigators were looking into the possibility that he “wasn’t a fan of the TSA.”
Motive a mystery
Like Mincey, other people who knew Ciancia struggled to reconcile the quiet teenager who by some accounts was bullied in high school with the man who allegedly targeted TSA workers during a shooting rampage.
In the New Jersey neighborhood where Ciancia is from, people described him as shy and a little awkward but said they never saw signs of anger or violent tendencies.
“He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot,” said David Hamilton, who graduated with Ciancia from Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., in 2008. “I really don’t remember any one person who was close to him . . . . In four years, I never heard a word out of his mouth.”
Ciancia lived for a time at an apartment complex on Los Feliz Boulevard in Atwater Village in Los Angeles. It’s unclear how long he had lived in Los Angeles or what he did for a living.
Marc Kreiner, who owns The Morrison, a restaurant and bar next door to the apartment complex, said he knew Ciancia by sight. He had been into the bar about half a dozen times, he said.
“He was kind of a quiet guy, came in mostly by himself, and one time with a couple of guys,” Kreiner said.
Mincey told KCAL that Ciancia had recently moved to Sun Valley, but they had had lunch together as recently as last week.
“He said he was going back to New Jersey, going to work for his dad, making amends with family problems, and spending the holidays with his family. That’s all I know,” said Mincey.
Ciancia grew up on a wooded street in Pennsville Township, N.J., about a mile from his father’s auto body shop. His father was an associate member of the Fraternal Order of Police and a supporter of local Little League teams.
Neighbors said they would see Ciancia and his brother riding four-wheeled vehicles up and down their long driveway. But tragedy struck the family a few years ago, neighbors said, when Ciancia’s mother died after a long illness.
“This is an absolute tragedy, in the highest sense” said Orlando Pagan, a police officer in neighboring Penns Grove. “It was a very good family. Whatever happened, it had nothing to do with their upbringing.”
The Los Angeles International Airport terminal where the shooting occurred was fully reopened early Saturday afternoon, officials said at a news conference.
Addressing reporters Saturday, Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, said LAX was “returning to normal,” but also acknowledged that operations were “very, very busy.” By the end of the news conference, about 1:20 p.m., she said Terminal 3 was fully operational.
Airport police Chief Pat Gannon said the Los Angeles Police Department had committed additional resources to airport security and that visitors to LAX should expect to see an increased law enforcement presence for the foreseeable future.
He said he learned in an FBI briefing that his officers were “60 seconds behind the suspect.”
The shooting left bullet holes in the terminal walls and the floor stained with blood, Gannon said. The airport wanted the shooting area to be “pristine” before it was reopened, he said.