Airport security will be reviewed after LAX shooting: Eric Holder

(NBC) -- Security at the nation's airports will be reviewed in the wake of last week's deadly ambush of Transportation Security Administration officers at Los Angeles International Airport, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.

"The function of TSA is to ensure that people can board planes safely, take flights safely," Holder said at a news conference in response to a question about Friday's rampage.

"The responsibility for protecting airports' security is not a TSA function, but it's something that we need to examine given what happened in Los Angeles," he said.

One TSA officer was killed and two others were wounded when a gunman, identified as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, pulled a semiautomatic rifle out of a bag and started shooting at a security checkpoint. A passenger was also wounded in the barrage.

Ciancia, who was later shot by police and is in critical but stable condition, said in a note that he was gunning for TSA agents as part of a "suicide mission," according to Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

"It's clearly one of those notes that reads, ‘I'm going to kill people and I don't want to kill civilians,' with the idea that he's going to die at the end of this," McCaul told CNN.

In a criminal complaint filed Saturday, investigators said they discovered a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia in his duffel bag that targeted TSA officials, and which included a threat to "instill fear in your traitorous minds."

Ciancia allegedly entered the secure area of the airport through a gateway normally used by travelers exiting the terminal and then opened fire on unarmed TSA workers — then returned to shoot one of the wounded a second time.

That officer, Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, was the first TSA employee to be killed in the line of duty in the agency's 12-year history.

The other officers — nine-year TSA veteran Tony Grigsby, 36, who was grazed by a bullet near his foot; and five-year TSA veteran James Speer, who was shot in the shoulder — are home resting and are expected to recover.

Passenger Brian Ludmer, a Los Angeles-area high school teacher, is recovering in the hospital after being shot in the leg.

Ciancia, who told authorities that he acted alone, was shot in the face numerous times by airport police and has significant injuries to his jaw, mouth and tongue, law enforcement sources said.

The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles has charged Ciancia with slaying a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport — crimes that carry the threat of execution, if he is convicted.

McCaul said Ciancia's note made reference to what he saw as lax airport security.

"The other thing he wanted to talk about was how easy it is to bring a gun into an airport and do something just like he did," McCaul said.


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