LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As horrific as the events of Friday morning were at LAX’s Terminal 3, law enforcement officials say that if it weren’t for the quick work of airport police, the situation could have been even more tragic.
“The heroic officers and their actions cannot be understated,” FBI Special Agent David L. Bowdich said at an afternoon news conference on Saturday. “Those officers with the Los Angeles World Airport organization … completely ran into the face of danger and they did stop this before, we believe, there would have been much more grave action to include additional casualties.”
The incident Friday unfolded about 9:20 a.m. when police say Paul Anthony Ciancia entered Terminal 3 and allegedly opened fire with an assault rifle.
“Within seconds, we had armed officers chasing the suspect through the terminal,” said Los Angeles World Airports Police Chief Patrick Gannon.
The rampage claimed the life of 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez, a TSA agent. Five other people were wounded, including the alleged gunman. The FBI says Ciancia has since been charged in connection with the deadly attack.
They described his current condition as “unresponsive” and said they haven’t been able to interview him as of yet.
“The fact that [the police] disabled this assailant within minutes was actually remarkable and saved untold lives,” Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said.
“I am absolutely confident that when we analyze this event after the fact, we’re gonna see that what the LAWA police force did yesterday is absolutely textbook,” Bonin said.
Meanwhile, authorities said security at LAX would remain high for the foreseeable future.
“We’ll continue a very high profile at the curbs and anywhere in those ticketing areas and anywhere on our campuses,” said Gannon, who also defended his earlier decision in the year to relocate police officers from behind the screening areas.
“I made a decision over this last year to make a move of those individuals and instead of being behind security where people have already been screened and we assume they have been unarmed, we moved them out to the front and gave them greater responsibilities,” Gannon explained. “The threat here at the airport does not exist behind security at that podium. The threat exists from the curb line on.”
Meanwhile, the FBI has asked for the public’s help in the collection of digital media pertaining to the shooting. Click here to submit a tip or dial (888) 226-8443.