Autopsy report reveals TSA agent shot 12 times in LAX attack

The TSA Chorus sings in tribute to slain Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo Hernandez, whose photo is set up on stage during a public memorial at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena earlier this month.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A Transportation Security Administration officer killed at Los Angeles International Airport during a rampage three weeks ago was shot 12 times, with bullets piercing organs, grazing his heart and severing a major artery, according to a final autopsy report released Friday.

Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, died within two to five minutes of the Nov. 1 attack inside Terminal 3. The gunman, identified by authorities as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, targeted TSA agents during the shooting, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said earlier this week.

Hernandez, a married father of two from Porter Ranch, was shot through his right arm, torso, waist, hip, back, buttock and groin by the gunman’s semiautomatic rifle, according to the 22-page autopsy report. Many of the shots were fired into the back of the unarmed agent, who became the nation’s first TSA officer to be killed in the line of duty.


Authorities say Ciancia entered the terminal about 9:30 a.m., pulled his rifle out of a bag and fired at Hernandez. The gunman walked up an escalator, then returned to shoot Hernandez again, U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte has said.

The coroner’s report described extensive injuries to many of Hernandez’s vital internal organs. The autopsy noted Hernandez suffered “a complete transection of the abdominal aorta distal to superior mesenteric artery” and extensive damage to his spinal cord.

Hernandez suffered 16 wounds to his gastrointestinal tract. Many of the rounds lodged in his body, the report noted. Medical examiners recovered 40 bullet fragments, which were given to the FBI as evidence, according to the report.

Two other TSA officers and a schoolteacher were wounded before Ciancia was shot and critically wounded by two airport police officers.

In Ciancia’s possessions, FBI agents recovered a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber rifle as well as notes expressing his hatred for the TSA and the government in general.

Ciancia was released Monday from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. He faces federal charges of murder of a federal officer and committing a violent act at an international airport. If convicted, Ciancia, a New Jersey native living in Los Angeles, could face the death penalty.