LOS ANGELES >> A deadly rampage at Los Angeles International Airport grew from a suicide plan that morphed into a twisted mission to die in a blaze of glory taking out federal officers, the gunman said before being sentenced Monday to life in prison.
In explaining the roots of his rage and offering a half-hearted apology, Paul Ciancia calmly told a federal judge the steps that led from him being “sick of life” to gunning down a Transportation Security Administration officer at point-blank range and wounding two other officers and a teacher before he was shot in the face and subdued three years ago.
“I knew exactly how I wanted to die,” Ciancia stated. “I was going to take up arms against my own government.”
Ciancia, 26, was sentenced to a mandatory term of life, plus 60 years for the Nov. 1, 2013, attack that crippled the nation’s second-busiest airport and disrupted travel nationwide. He previously pleaded guilty to murder and 10 other charges.
Dressed in an all-white jail suit and shackled at the ankles, the skinny Ciancia stared at the agents he had shot and airport police who sat in the courtroom with black bands across their badges. He offered no apology to them, but said he was sorry to Brian Ludmer, a teacher who was headed to a wedding in Chicago when he was struck by gunfire.
Ludmer was so taken aback by Ciancia’s “bizarre lack of remorse” for the officers and the family of slain Officer Gerardo Hernandez that he decided to address the killer by reading from an eloquent statement he had filed with the court.
Ludmer spoke about the pain he still endures and how he has lost faith in a system that allowed Ciancia to raise so many “red flags,” yet avoid treatment for mental illness and be able to buy an assault rifle.
He then went off script to say that Ciancia needed to apologize to the TSA officers, the widow of Hernandez and the two children he left behind.
“If you can’t see that, if you can’t feel that, your sense of remorse is just as deranged as your actions,” Ludmer said.
Outside court, TSA officer Tony Grigsby, who was wounded, said he felt Ciancia was giving him a “death stare.”
“It’s like he’s inhuman,” Grigsby said. “Seeing him with no kind of remorse made me sad for him.”
Ciancia shot and wounded Grigsby and officer James Speer as they ran from a screening checkpoint, and he struck Ludmer, who had been in the screening area, in the calf.
The unemployed motorcycle mechanic originally from New Jersey said he decided to kill himself in the fall of 2012. He planned to spend his $26,000 in savings and “enjoy my retirement.”
The presidential race was underway and he said he was watching a lot of cable news and heard a lot of talk about gun control. After doing some research on a conservative website that peddles conspiracy theories, he decided he needed a firearm.
Not long after that, he said he was hassled by Los Angeles police. He did not give details, but said that incident triggered his decision to take on the government.
The TSA was not in his first or even second choice as a target but while doing research he found it was the most hated agency in America.
“I wanted to make a statement,” he said.
He threw his plan into action Nov. 1 when his money ran out and he was unable to pay rent.
“My retirement was over,” he said.
Investigators discovered a note Ciancia left in a duffel bag with hundreds of rounds of ammo. It ranted about unconstitutional searches and he said the TSA treated Americans as terrorists and he intended to strike fear in their hearts.
“I want it to always be in the back of your head just how easy it is to take a weapon to the beginning of your Nazi checkpoints,” said the note signed with his name and “Pissed-off Patriot.” ”If you want to play that game where you pretend that every American is a terrorist, you’re going to learn what a self-fulfilling prophecy is.”
Although the sentence carries no chance of parole, Ciancia apparently still thinks he may one day be released.
In a court filing, one of his lawyers noted: “Ciancia believes he will get out of prison when the revolution begins.”
This story has been corrected to show Ciancia said he “wanted to make a statement,” not that he “was going to make a statement.”