The family of a federal passenger screener who was shot to death at Los Angeles International Airport last November sued the city of Los Angeles for $25 million this week, alleging security lapses and unreasonable delays in medical care.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday stems from the death of Gerardo Ismael Hernandez, a Transportation Security Administration officer who was shot 12 times at point-blank range on Nov. 1 during an attack by a gunman inside Terminal 3.
Los Angeles employees “failed in carrying out their duties, creating a very dangerous lapse in security which was a factor causing Mr. Hernandez to be fatally shot,” said Michael Alder, the attorney for the officer’s family. “Even more horrific is that the city’s employees delayed medical care to Mr. Hernandez.”
Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the case names as defendants the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles police and fire departments, the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, and Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX. Los Angeles County also was sued.
The lawsuit alleges that just before the shooting, airport police officers violated city policy by leaving their positions in Terminal 3 without seeking the approval of their supervisors or requesting replacements.
It is also alleged that the defendants did not properly hire, train or supervise personnel to adequately assess emergency situations, secure LAX and provide medical care quickly.
Alder claims that first responders failed to secure the terminal so paramedics could enter and treat Hernandez, who was wounded and lay on the floor for more than 30 minutes before he was attended to.
Hernandez’s autopsy indicates that he died 2 to 5 minutes after being shot.
The lawsuit further contends that inadequate emergency plans, communication and coordination problems between public safety agencies as well as several broken panic buttons and an inoperable emergency telephone in Terminal 3 played roles in Hernandez’s death.
Alder noted in court papers that a special blue-ribbon panel established by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2011 to assess airport security concluded that the city had failed to rectify past deficiencies and implement recommendations to better protect the airport.
Problems cited included a lack of standardized procedures between local law enforcement and the TSA as well as a failure to have police officers within 300 feet of TSA passenger-screening areas.
Airport officials declined to comment, saying they had not been served yet. Los Angeles, however, has rejected the family’s earlier legal claim for damages, which is the first step toward filing a lawsuit.
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