Judge: LAX Shooting Suspect Is Flight Risk, Danger to Community

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The 23-year-old suspect in a fatal shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport made his initial court appearance from a Rancho Cucamonga jail Wednesday morning and was ordered held without bail.


Paul Ciancia seen in a courtroom artist’s sketch during a Dec. 4, 2013, hearing. (Credit: Bill Robles)

Paul Ciancia appeared at West Valley Detention Center, a San Bernardino County jail facility where he was being detained. No cameras were allowed inside the hearing.

Judge David T. Bristow granted federal prosecutors’ request that Ciancia remain in custody until trial, saying he was a flight risk and a danger to the community, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Ciancia has been charged with the murder of a federal officer and the intentional use of a firearm during the commission of violence an international airport.

Shackled, handcuffed and speaking quietly in a hoarse voice, Ciancia appeared small and young to observers in the small concrete room in which the hearing was held.

In addition to having marks on his face, he wore a kind of bandage around his neck that looked like one given to tracheotomy patients.

He was not asked to enter a plea on Wednesday.

The appearance was Ciancia’s first since he allegedly opening fire at LAX on Nov. 1, killing Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo  I. Hernandez and injuring several others.

Brisbow scheduled for a preliminary hearing for Dec. 18, which will take place unless Ciancia is indicted beforehand. An arraignment was set for Dec. 26.

Both hearings were set to take place in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, Mrozek said.

A case calendar for the courtroom had listed “hospital” and West Valley Detention Center under the Wednesday hearing, but Mrozek could not confirm if Ciancia was still in a medical center at the jail.

Ciancia allegedly pulled an assault rifle from a bag near the entrance to Terminal 3, shooting Hernandez at point-blank range, and then returning to fire on Hernandez again. Ciancia allegedly then fired on at least two other TSA employees and a civilian passenger as he proceeded through the TSA checkpoint and into the gate area.

He was shot by responding airport police and taken to the hospital in critical condition; court documents indicate he was shot in the face.

On Nov. 19, Ciancia was released from the hospital and taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service.

He was being held at the Rancho Cucamonga facility, about 45 miles east of Los Angeles, because the Marshals Service has a contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to hold federal prisoners at the jail there, according to Mrozek.

A New Jersey native who had been living in Sun Valley, Ciancia was believed to have acted alone, specifically targeting TSA employees in an incident that left LAX in chaos and disrupted air travel around the world.