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Man who killed TSA officer at LAX in 2013 pleads guilty and avoids death penalty

Paul Ciancia
Paul Ciancia.
(FBI)

An unemployed motorcycle mechanic who gunned down airport screening officers at Los Angeles International Airport in a 2013 attack that sent passengers running for their lives pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and 10 other charges.

Paul Ciancia agreed last week to plead guilty to all 11 charges in the rampage that killed one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounded two others and a teacher who was headed for a flight.

Ciancia, 26, was spared the death penalty by entering the plea. He faces a mandatory life term in prison.

The evidence against Ciancia was overwhelming, and included a note he wrote saying he was enraged with the airport security checks that U.S. passengers face.

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Security cameras tracked Ciancia’s movements as he stalked his victims with a semiautomatic rifle in Terminal 3 for 10 minutes during the Nov. 1, 2013, attack.

He first opened fire on TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez at a document screening podium, wounding the 39-year-old married father of two children.

As Ciancia went up an escalator to the main security screening area, he saw Hernandez move and returned to fire several more shots at point-blank range, killing Hernandez.

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He then went up the escalator again, through the main screening area and into a secure part of the airport and reloaded before opening fire - shooting Officers Tony Grigsby in the ankle and James Speer in the shoulder as they tried to run away. Brian Ludmer, a teacher, was hit in the calf.

Police shot and wounded Ciancia in the terminal’s food court, hitting him four times. He was armed with a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic rifle he had purchased seven months earlier.

Officers found a handwritten note and ammunition in a duffel bag Ciancia had dropped.

Ciancia, who was living in the Los Angeles area after growing up in Pennsville, N.J., said in the note that he wanted to kill at least one TSA officer but hoped to kill more.

“If you want to play that game where you pretend that every American is a terrorist, you’re going to learn what a self-fulfilling prophecy is,” his note said, according to court documents.

The note added, “I want to instill fear in your traitorous minds. I want it to always be in the back of your head just how easy it is to take a weapon to the beginning of your Nazi checkpoints.”

Follow @lanow for breaking news.

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