LOS ANGELES – A Sun Valley man who admitted a host of criminal charges related to a 2013 shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport in which he murdered Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced today to spend the rest of his life in federal prison.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 26, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of TSA Officer Hernandez on November 1, 2013, was sentenced by United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.
Judge Gutierrez sentenced Ciancia to life in prison, plus an additional 60 years. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
“Today, justice was done on behalf of fallen TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, his wounded colleagues, and all those who were terrorized by the wanton violence perpetrated by this defendant,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “This sentence reflects appropriate punishment for a heinous crime. It ensures that the defendant can never again harm or murder innocent Americans. And it sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate calculated attacks on our nation’s law enforcement officers, and that those who do commit such crimes will be held accountable.”
“The crimes that led to today’s sentence were vicious, horrific and senseless,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “After planning a mass murder, this defendant murdered a highly respected law enforcement officer, seriously wounded two other federal officers and a civilian, and terrified hundreds of people who feared for their lives. Those who target law enforcement and our nation’s critical infrastructure will be held accountable. As a result of today’s sentence, Mr. Ciancia will never again have a chance to harm other innocent people.”
According to court documents, in early 2013, Ciancia purchased a semiautomatic rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and 10 magazines for the rifle. On the morning of November 1, 2013, Ciancia modified two pieces of luggage and zip-tied them together to conceal his loaded rifle.
Later that morning, Ciancia entered Terminal Three at LAX, removed the loaded rifle from his modified luggage and fired at and killed Officer Hernandez, who was checking passengers’ travel documents as part of his duties as a TSA Officer. Ciancia admitted that he then went upstairs to a TSA checkpoint, where he fired his weapon at TSA Officers Tony Leroy Grigsby and James Maurice Speer, as well at a civilian, Brian Ludmer. These three victims sustained serious injuries and required surgery, but they survived the attack.
“The defendant will spend the rest of his life behind bars for targeting airport officers with premeditated murder, but a just sentence cannot replace the loss of Officer Hernandez, nor remove the suffering of his victims, and his victims' families, friends and colleagues,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The collaborative efforts by first responders and investigators on the day of the shooting and thoughout this investigation are commendable and aided prosecutors in ensuring that Mr. Ciancia can never again pose a threat.”
“We are grateful to the FBI and the Department of Justice for their hard work in obtaining justice for Mr. Hernandez, his family, co-workers, and the men and women of DHS,” said Secretary Jeh C. Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security.
Appearing before Judge Gutierrez two months ago, Ciancia pleaded guilty to one count of murder of a federal officer; two counts of attempted murder of a federal officer; four counts of violence at an international airport; one count of discharging of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death; and three counts of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
During today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Gutierrez sentenced Ciancia to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge. Judge Gutierrez also imposed life sentences for the two additional charges based on the killing of Officer Hernandez – violence at an international airport that resulted in death and using a firearm to murder and cause death.
The additional 60-year prison term was imposed in relation to the three counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence.
This case is the product of an investigation by members of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and includes agents and officers from 45 other local, state and federal agencies.
The following agencies provided considerable assistance during the investigation: the Los Angeles Airport Police; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; the Transportation Security Administration; the Federal Air Marshal Service; the Los Angeles Port Police; the Long Beach Police Department; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the United States Secret Service; the Los Angeles Fire Department; Los Angeles International Airport Operations; the United States Marshals Service; the United States Postal Inspection Service; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patrick R. Fitzgerald, who is chief of the National Security Division; Assistant United States Attorneys Melissa Mills of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section; Joanna M. Curtis of the Violent and Organized Crime Section; and DOJ Trial Attorney Michael S. Warbel of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section.