Report on Fatal LAX Shooting Details Response, Communication Lapses

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An official report on the Nov. 1, 2013, shooting at LAX that left one transportation security agent dead that was released Tuesday praised first responders and criticized communications failures.


Police respond to a fatal shooting in Terminal 3 at LAX on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (Credit: Leslie Rockitter)

The 99-page document was completed at the request of the Board of Airport Commissioners after Paul Ciancia allegedly opened fire inside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport.

The incident left Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo I. Hernandez dead, and two other agents wounded. A passenger was also wounded.

Ciancia was in custody about seven minutes after entering the terminal, according to the report. He was shot by responding police officers but recovered and was facing federal prosecution.

The airport was in chaos for hours, with more than 170,000 airline passengers affected, according to the report.

“The incident is not over,” Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey wrote in a memo to the airport board at the beginning of the report.

The report noted a multiagency team response showed “courage, skill and professionalism” but stated a “continuing emphasis on incident command basics” was needed.

Emergency alert and warning systems at the airport need to be updated, the report said. It noted that emergency phones in terminals sometimes failed to indicate where in the airport calls where coming from.


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti discusses a report on the LAX shooting at a news conference at the airport on March 18, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

At a news conference on the report Tuesday morning, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised a police response he called swift and heroic.

But he focused in part on shortcomings in the response — particularly in poor communication between multiple public safety agencies and to the public.

“The biggest failure was the lack of communication effectiveness,” Garcetti said. “It has to be analogue, it has to be digital. It has to be face to face, it has to be virtual. It has to be in every medium that we have.”

A centralized public address system for the airport was being developed, Garcetti said. Eleven emergency message signs on roadways have been installed that send messages directly to travelers’ cellphones, he said.


The shooting took place at Terminal 3, next to the larger Tom Bradley International Terminal. (Credit: KTLA)

Phones and panic alarms in terminals now transmit location information to public safety dispatchers, Garcetti said.

He noted the struggle to get police agencies across the nation on shareable communication systems had been ongoing since 9/11. He called the local effort incredibly expensive and lack of progress frustrating.

“We got lucky that day. We’re lucky this shooting didn’t take more lives,” Garcetti said.

The report recommends the development of an “improvement plan” based on lessons learned from the incident, and the board’s president vowed to carefully review the analysis and implement changes “in a timely fashion.”

The airport board was expected to take up the report at a meeting later in the day.

A copy of the report is available at the LAWA website.

KTLA’s Kacey Montoya contributed to this article.

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