The 23-year-old accused of perpetrating a shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport made his first court appearance Wednesday, facing a murder charge in the slaying of a security screener.
Paul Anthony Ciancia appeared before a judge in a courtroom inside the Rancho Cucamonga jail, where he is being held while recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered when airport police were trying to apprehend him. In the brief arraignment hearing, the judge denied bail, citing the potential of him being a flight risk and a danger to the community.
He replied “Yes” in a hoarse whisper when the judge asked if he understood the charges he faced, according to a pool report. The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, noted that his charges were terrorism related, meaning he could face life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted, which Ciancia acknowledged.
The hearing was intended to make sure Ciancia knew his rights, had seen the criminal complaint filed against him and that he had an attorney. He will plead to the charges -- including murder of a federal officer and commission of violence at an airport -- at a later time.
Ciancia is accused of killing Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo I. Hernandez and wounding three others during the Nov. 1 rampage. Hernandez, 39, was the first TSA officer to die in the line of duty since the agency was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Ciancia had a documented hatred of TSA agents and allegedly targeted them during the attack, authorities said.
Ciancia was shot in the head and leg by airport police. On Wednesday, courtroom observers said that Ciancia, a small man, appeared healthy and able to talk on his own while in shackles. He had a bandage on his neck and an apparatus that appeared to help him breathe.
He spoke little in court, but when he did, he sounded hoarse.
He has a preliminary hearing Dec. 18 and a post-indictment arraignment Dec. 26.