July 25, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

LAX shooting spree death penalty decision expected in November

Federal prosecutors said today they expect a decision by mid-November on whether the death penalty will be sought against a 24-year-old suspect accused in a deadly shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport.

The ultimate decision on whether death is an appropriate penalty in the case against Paul Anthony Ciancia is up to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanna M. Curtis told the court that her office had provided its recommendation to Holder as to the penalty, but did not indicate what that was.

“Unfortunately, it’s not up to us,” Curtis told the court, adding that the investigation by her office was ongoing.

However, lawyers for Ciancia said they planned to travel to Washington, D.C., at some point to present their arguments against the death penalty to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Curtis said prosecutors had accumulated about 10,000 pages and 150 DVDs of discovery in the case, including material collected during a probe of Ciancia’s background in the small town of Pennsville, N.J., which they had presented to the defense.

U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez was adamant that the case would be tried next year, although defense attorney Hilary L. Potashner said she may ask for more time if death is sought.

Ciancia, who stands a little over 5 feet, was brought to court in green and white jail clothing, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles. At the request of defense counsel, U.S. marshals unshackled his wrists for the brief hearing.

Three charges in the 11-count indictment against Ciancia carry the potential for a death sentence: murder of a federal officer, use of a firearm that led to the murder, and act of violence in an international airport, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ciancia had been living in Sun Valley for about two years when he allegedly stormed into Terminal 3 last Nov. 1 with an assault rifle, killing Transportation Security Administration agent Gerardo Hernandez and wounding three others — two other TSA workers and one traveler.

Ciancia allegedly shot Hernandez at a lower-level LAX passenger check-in station and began walking upstairs, but returned when he realized Hernandez was still alive and shot him again.

In addition to first-degree murder, the indictment charges Ciancia with two counts of attempted murder for the shootings of TSA officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer. Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas teacher, was also wounded.

Ciancia is also charged with committing acts of violence at an international airport, one count of using a firearm to commit murder, and three counts of brandishing and discharging a firearm.

During the shooting spree, Ciancia was allegedly carrying a handwritten, signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and “instill fear in their traitorous minds,” along with dozens of rounds of ammunition. Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.

Ciancia was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He spent more than two weeks at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center before he was moved to a San Bernardino facility, and subsequently to the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center, where he remains held without bail.

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