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A gunman who killed a federal transportation security officer and wounded three other people during a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport was sentenced Monday to life plus 60 years in prison for the attack that crippled the nation’s second-busiest airport and disrupted travel nationwide.
Paul Ciancia, 26, had faced the mandatory life sentence for murdering a federal officer, but prosecutors also sought the additional 60-year term because he showed no remorse and still clings to the beliefs that led to the violence in 2013.
Addressing the court about what led up to the attack, Ciancia said that in 2012 he was sick of life and decided to kill himself.
At the time the 2012 presidential race was underway, he was watching a lot of cable news and there was a great deal of talk about gun control, he said.
“I told myself that day I need to get a gun,” said Ciancia, adding that not long after that he was harassed by Los Angeles police. He did not give details of that but continued his account.
“I knew exactly how I wanted to die. I was going to take up arms against my own government,” he said.
Ciancia said the Transportation Security Administration was not in his first or second plan but while doing research he found that it was the most hated agency in America.
“I was going to make a statement,” he said.
Ciancia noted that at the outset he had decided to spend his savings of $26,000 and that on Nov. 1, 2013 — the day of the attack — he was unable to pay his rent. “My retirement was over,” he said.
He apologized for shooting airline passenger Brian Ludmer but he did not apologize for shooting the TSA agents.
Ludmer also addressed the court, referring to Ciancia’s “bizarre sense of remorse” and saying that the defendant should apologize to the TSA agents and the two children he left fatherless.
“If you can’t see that, if you can’t feel that, your sense of remorse is just as deranged as your actions,” said Ludmer.
Ciancia “plotted to commit mass murder at one of the nation’s foremost transportation hubs, murdered a beloved public servant in cold blood, seriously injured two other federal officers whom he shot and was attempting to kill, shot and injured a passenger who was traveling to attend a wedding, and terrified hundreds of other passengers and employees,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wrote in sentencing papers.
Fitzgerald also asked that the court not recommend that Ciancia, who has a combination of mental disorders and has been suicidal in the past, be sent to a federal medical facility instead of prison.
The probation office made that recommendation in a sealed presentencing report the prosecutor referenced, but Fitzgerald said it would be inappropriate given Ciancia’s crimes and the threat he poses to federal employees. That determination should be made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he said.
Fitzgerald said the bureau needs to protect its “personnel from a prisoner who killed a federal official, attempted to kill many more, has shown no remorse over his conduct, and continues to harbor the same beliefs that led him to commit his crimes.”
Ciancia, an unemployed motorcycle mechanic from New Jersey, pleaded guilty two months ago to murdering Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez and to 10 other charges for the attack driven by his anger over airport security measures.
Ciancia shot and wounded TSA officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer as they ran from a screening checkpoint, and he struck Ludmer, who had been in the screening area, in the calf.
Ludmer, a high school theater technical director at the time, wrote a letter to the court saying he could no longer walk without pain or work in the same way, and his outlook on life has been altered. He has lost his sense of security, is anxious in crowds and feels “utterly vulnerable in the world around me.”
Ludmer noted the crimes were another example where warning signs of a killer’s mental illness went unheeded and didn’t prevent him from buying an assault rifle.
“I’m mad at the system that failed him. That is failing all of us,” Ludmer wrote. “If cases like his are passing by without any red flags, if guns and ammunition can be sold to people without even checking for any such flags, then of course someone like him would do something like this.”
The pale, thin Ciancia had expected to die in the attack and left behind a note venting about unconstitutional searches. He wrote that 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,” Ciancia wrote in 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.”
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.”
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