Flags were flying at half-staff across the U.S. on Saturday in honor of Gerardo I. Hernandez, a Transportation Security Administration agent who was shot and killed by a gunman Friday morning as Los Angeles International Airport.
For the past five years, LAX and its employees were a second home and a second family to Hernandez, friends and relatives said. He was one of three TSA officers who were shot after Paul Ciancia allegedly walked into Terminal 3 at the airport, carrying an assault rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.
“We are all heartbroken and will miss him dearly,” said Gerardo’s wife, Ana. “We married on Valentine’s Day 1998 and have two beautiful, wonderful children.”
The breach of airport security on Friday was the worst since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which had initially prompted the creation of the TSA.
“In many respects, TSA employees are the first line of defense when it comes to airport security, particularly,” said John Pistole, the agency’s director. “Given this tragedy, we will obviously look at and review our policies with airport police, both here at LAX and of course around the country.”
Gerardo was the first TSA agent to die in the line of duty, despite the efforts of airport police officers to save his life.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon at LAX, airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said his officers used department-issued trauma kits to provide first aid to Hernandez before paramedics arrived.
“Every attempt was made to help save that life,” Gannon said. “They worked very hard to try to help this individual.”