Report: LAFD captains trained to enter shooting scenes after LAX incident

A Transportation Security Administration agent was shot and several other people were wounded when a gunman opened fire in a Los Angeles International Airport terminal on Nov. 1, 2013.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Fire Department has trained hundreds of captains to oversee rescue teams during mass shootings as part of an ambitious effort prompted by a gunman’s rampage last year at LAX, according to a report that will be presented Tuesday to fire commissioners.

The “after-action” report critiqued the department’s response to the Nov. 1 shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport, where a man wielding a high-powered rifle sprayed a terminal with gunfire and mortally wounded a federal security officer.

The report said five others were wounded or injured during the incident, which sparked panic and chaos at one of the nations’ busiest airports.


The LAFD report said the most significant “gap in performance” during the shooting was the failure of police and fire officials at the scene to quickly establish a unified command as first responders swooped down on the airport.

“This gap delays the development of unified control objectives and has the potential to place LAFD members at risk, and possibly delay treatment to injured civilians,” Interim Fire Chief James G. Featherstone wrote in a summary attached to the report.

A separate report produced by consulting firms hired by the airport department noted that it took 45 minutes for police and fire officials to set up a unified command center after the gunman entered Terminal 3 and opened fire around 9:20 a.m.

That review also found that the response was hampered by poor communication and a lack of coordination between agencies.

The Times reported in December that the LAFD had launched an ambitious effort to train paramedics and firefighters to rapidly enter potentially dangerous areas under police protection. The goal, fire officials said, is to treat victims and quickly get them to trauma centers for advanced medical care.

The move puts the department among the ranks of a growing number of rescue agencies nationwide that are borrowing battlefield tactics of combat medics to improve the chances of saving victims during so-called active shooting incidents.


More than 250 people have died nationwide in such shootings since 1999, according to a report released last fall by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The more aggressive response, Featherstone said in his summary, “is a solution to the tragic frequency of active shooting incidents across the country.”

The LAFD report said that all the agency’s captains had been trained and that additional training is underway for members of the department, which has about 3,200 sworn personnel. The agency has also begun training with LAX police and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the report.

Federal authorities have charged Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, with murder in connection with the slaying of Gerardo Hernandez, 39, in the LAX shooting. The Transportation Security Administration worker was the first TSA officer to die in the line of duty.

Hernandez was hit by 12 rounds and died within minutes after being wounded, according to a coroner’s autopsy report.

The LAFD report, which will be presented to the Fire Commission at its regular meeting, said that firefighters made contact with Hernandez at 9:46 a.m., about 26 minutes after the gunman opened fire.

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