LAX shooting: ‘I think this is my son,’ suspect’s father told police
The gunman suspected in a deadly rampage at Los Angeles International Airport sent his siblings troubling text messages before the incident, prompting his family to ask Los Angeles police to check on him, a New Jersey police chief said.
Allen J. Cummings, police chief of Pennsville, N.J. — the 14,000-person town where Paul Ciancia grew up — said Ciancia’s father called him Friday afternoon. Ciancia had sent his brother a text message with “comments in there he was going to harm himself,” his father told the chief.
The chief went to the Ciancia family home, and after seeing the message “immediately wanted to try and get a hold of LAPD,” he said.
Ciancia’s sister, who lives in Pennsylvania, had already called Los Angeles police after she received a different text from her brother, Cummings said. The New Jersey police chief then called Los Angeles police, who were heading to Ciancia’s apartment to conduct a welfare check.
Cummings said an LAPD lieutenant then told him officers spoke with Ciancia’s two roommates, who said they had not seen Ciancia since the day before. The chief relayed the message to Ciancia’s father.
But before Cummings left the house, Ciancia’s father told him there was a chance his son had a gun. Cummings called the LAPD lieutenant back, and asked her to send officers back to the apartment to check for any weapons.
The officers relayed that there were no weapons at the location, Cummings said. The lieutenant told the chief “she would do everything she could to find out if he was OK,” he said, and the pair hung up.
Less than a half hour later, back at Cummings’ office, the phone rang.
“My secretary said, ‘Chief, there’s a phone call for you about the shooting at LAX,’” he said. “At that point I knew.”
As soon as Cummings hung up with the reporter, Ciancia’s father called: “He said, ‘I’m watching TV and I think this is my son at the airport.’”
Authorities allege Ciancia opened fire at the airport’s Terminal 3 about 9:20 a.m. Friday, apparently targeting Transportation Security Administration workers as he moved past a screening area farther into the airport. Witnesses described a chaotic scene as passengers and employees ran for cover.
TSA worker Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, was shot and killed, authorities said. At least two other TSA workers and one civilian were wounded by the gunfire, and officials said others were injured as they tried to run.
On Saturday, federal prosecutors charged Ciancia with murder and violence at an international airport. FBI officials said the suspect’s intent was made “very, very clear” in a note he had written that “indicated his anger and malice toward TSA officers.”
Cummings said Ciancia’s family is “absolutely an emotional wreck” and had “no inkling” anything was amiss, or that he might have harbored such sentiments.
“They’re upset, they’re confused ... they can’t believe it either,” Cummings said. “They’re just as shocked as everyone else is.”
“We don’t really know what happened out west where you guys are from,” Cummings said later. “We don’t know where he got his ideas or where that came from.”
Cummings said Ciancia moved to Los Angeles about 18 months ago. Though he has been linked to an apartment in Atwater Village, a woman told The Times he lived with her brother and other roommates in Sun Valley.
Though Cummings said he never met Ciancia or his siblings, the chief said he had known their father, who owns an auto repair shop, “for a long time.” Their mother passed away from an illness, he said.
He stressed that the Ciancias were a good family and that his department “never had any type of disturbance at the house or anything.” He called the news “shocking.”
“I was a detective for 13 years. I know everybody in this town — I grew up here, I went to high school here. I would know if there was a problem,” the chief said. “And there was never a problem.”
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