Skip to main content

TSA officer killed at LAX is the first to die in the line of duty

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 12:21 PM EST, Sun November 3, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Devastated" widow calls Gerardo Hernandez, 39, "wonderful husband, father"
  • Hernandez was fatally wounded in the Los Angeles International Airport shooting
  • Hernandez would have celebrated his 40th birthday next week

(CNN) -- A California husband and father became the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty in the agency's 12-year history, the lone fatality in a frightful shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

Gerardo Hernandez would have celebrated his 40th birthday next week.

Instead, he is being mourned as the first slain-on-duty officer at the Transportation Security Administration, a sometimes loathed but always vital agency that protects the country's airports.

"I am truly devastated," his widow Ana Hernandez said of the man she described as a "wonderful husband, father, brother, son and friend." "We are all heartbroken and will miss him dearly."

Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was killed in a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, November 1. Paul Ciancia, 23, armed with what police say was an assault rifle and carrying materials expressing anti-government sentiment, opened fire at LAX Terminal 3, killing Hernandez before being chased down. Ciancia has been charged with the murder of a federal officer and commission of violence at an international airport. Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was killed in a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, November 1. Paul Ciancia, 23, armed with what police say was an assault rifle and carrying materials expressing anti-government sentiment, opened fire at LAX Terminal 3, killing Hernandez before being chased down. Ciancia has been charged with the murder of a federal officer and commission of violence at an international airport.
Fatal shooting at Los Angeles airport
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Gunfire at LAX Photos: Gunfire at LAX

Contradicting reports that Hernandez was a behavior detection officer, TSA Administrator John Pistole said he had other duties.

TSA employees' union and federal sources said Hernandez was working as a travel document checker at the time of the shooting.

Union president J. David Cox Sr. said his group was "sickened" by the shooting and expressed thanks to "all our brave (transportation security officers) who put their lives on the line every day to keep the flying public safe."

The suspected gunman, 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, walked up to checkpoint at Terminal 3 where Hernandez was working, pulled a ".223-caliber MP-15 assault rifle out of his bag and fired multiple rounds at point-blank range," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said Saturday.

Ciancia, 23, then went up an escalator near the checkpoint but then came back down "to return and shoot the wounded officer again," Birotte added.

Deadly LAX shooting: Why did he do it?

Hernandez was shot in the chest and abdomen, and pronounced dead upon his arrival at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, CNN affiliate KABC reported. He had been with the agency since 2010, the affiliate said.

Two other TSA officers were also shot, one in the leg, authorities said.

Source: Angry, rambling texts

"I'm shocked, the guy is a very nice guy," one of Hernandez's neighbors in the north Los Angeles community of Porter Ranch, Habib Bonakdar, told CNN affiliate KCAL-KCBS.

Hernandez was married with children, another neighbor, Ken Wong, told the affiliate.

"It's just tragic," Wong said. "What a terrible thing. Here's a man who was trying to serve his country, do his job well and support his family, and this is a senseless thing that happened. It shouldn't have happened."

Chaos, terror unfold inside LAX Terminal 3

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter and Greg Botelho contributed to this story.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Shooting at LAX
updated 8:53 PM EST, Sun November 3, 2013
A true explanation of why a gunman unleashed terror at Los Angeles International Airport may lie in the hospital bed of Paul Ciancia. But no secrets are coming out.
updated 10:37 AM EST, Sun November 3, 2013
Paul Anthony Ciancia was a newcomer to Los Angeles -- a 23-year-old Catholic school graduate and son of a popular Fraternal Order of Police member back in New Jersey.
updated 12:21 PM EST, Sun November 3, 2013
A California husband and father became the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty in the agency's 12-year history, the lone fatality in a frightful shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
A deadly shooting at a checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport emphasizes airport security vulnerabilities, according to analysts and a union chief.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Sat November 2, 2013
Pop. Pop. Pop. What is that, a number of passengers at Los Angeles International Airport thought? Then came the screams from inside Terminal 3: "A gun! Everybody get down.
updated 7:46 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
It's not clear why Paul Anthony Ciancia stormed into LAX, but it is clear he was dangerous. CNN's Dan Simon reports.
updated 1:34 PM EST, Mon November 4, 2013
Is it time to start arming Transportation Security Administration officials? No way, a former flight attendant says.
updated 7:46 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
CNN's Dan Simon reports the latest on the LAX shooting as authorities begin to piece together the suspect's motive.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
As a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport, some celebrities who were there shared via social media what they were witnessing.
updated 10:33 AM EST, Sat November 23, 2013
Click through our gallery to see the chaos as it unfolded at LAX.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT