LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — An Associated Press report published Friday says help was delayed for more than 30 minutes for the Transportation Security Administration agent who was fatally shot at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month.
Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was working at a lower-level passenger check-in station on the morning of Nov. 1 when a gunman pulled a semi-automatic weapon out of a duffel bag and opened fire.
Two law enforcement officials cited in the AP reports said paramedics waited 150 yards away because police had not declared the terminal safe to enter.
It would be 33 minutes before airport police would put Hernandez, who was about 20 feet from an exit, in a wheelchair and take him to an ambulance, said the officials, who were briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was still ongoing.
For all but five of those minutes, there was no threat from the suspected gunman, 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia; he had been shot and was in custody, officials said.
Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn., also raised the possibility Friday that medical attention was delayed because Los Angeles Police Department Officer John Long told other responders Hernandez was dead.
Police broadcast over their radios that a suspect was in custody at 9:25 a.m., five minutes after Hernandez was shot in the chest. That’s when Long checked on Hernandez several times, repeatedly telling officers who came by from various agencies that he was dead, according to one of the law enforcement officials.
Officers from multiple agencies bent down to check on Hernandez before moving on; no officers rendered first aid on scene, according to surveillance video reviewed by the officials.
Airport police who came to check on Hernandez after attending to other victims were told by Long, “He’s dead,” McClain said.
“‘What do you mean he’s dead?'” an airport officer replied, according to McClain. “‘If he’s dead, whatever, we can’t make that determination.'”
After the airport officer found what he thought was a faint pulse, he took Hernandez in a wheelchair to an ambulance, said McClain, who gathered his account by talking to the airport officers involved.
Trauma surgeon David Plurad said Hernandez had no signs of life when he arrived at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Doctors worked for about an hour to revive him despite significant blood loss.
It’s not known when Hernandez died or if immediate medical attention could have saved his life, but McClain said unless a person is decapitated, it must be up to a doctor to declare someone dead.
It’s also unclear how the officer determined Hernandez was dead or if he was qualified to do so. Long refused to comment.
The LAPD said it would investigate whether the officer hindered efforts to rescue Hernandez.
“Anytime anybody makes an allegation against one of our officers we have to investigate it, so of course we’ll look into it,” said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, the department spokesman.
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement in response to the report:
“I am appalled that Officer Hernandez was left unattended for 33 minutes after the brutal attack he suffered. In the heat of the moment there will always be an element of confusion, but 33 minutes is absolutely unacceptable. If someone had gotten to him earlier, this could have been a survival story. Instead a wife is left without a husband, children without a father, and co-workers without one of their beloved comrades.
“We need a serious re-examination of TSA’s screening area security policies to stop the next tragedy before it happens. The inconsistent patchwork of local law enforcement and security protocols simply won’t get the job done. We need a dedicated TSA law enforcement unit tasked with protecting transportation security officers and the flying public around our vulnerable screening areas. An immediate threat requires an immediate response, and we can’t afford to be taken off-guard again.”
Representatives of the LAPD, Los Angeles Fire Department and airport police said they couldn’t comment on the investigation into the delay in the declaring the airport safe for rescuers until extensive reports are finished.
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