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LAX shooting: Calabasas teacher describes encounter with gunman

A local teacher who was seriously wounded by a gunman at Los Angeles International airport spoke out on Tuesday.
November 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A local teacher who was seriously wounded by a gunman at Los Angeles International Airport spoke out on Tuesday, describing his terrifying experience during last Friday's rampage.

Calabasas High School teacher Brian Ludmer, 29, says he will never forget coming face to face with the suspect.

With his mom by his hospital bedside, Ludmer read through the dozens of cards Calabasas students sent to the performing arts teacher. He was on his way back home to Chicago last Friday for a friend's wedding when gunfire suddenly erupted at LAX.

"I was in line with a bunch of people for the metal detectors when we heard gunfire, first from the first floor, from the ticket level, so then everybody...panicked. Everybody started running," said Ludmer.

Ludmer says he ran down the hall of the airport as others ran into the restrooms and down airplane bridges in a frantic attempt to escape. But suddenly there was gunfire.

"I remember a couple of TSA folks still being in the hallway, and, no, I wasn't looking, and it just hit me in the leg. I didn't know obviously what his intention was, and I only saw me and him. And I thought I was down and he could well try to shoot again," said Ludmer.

Ludmer managed to drag himself into a storage room where he created a makeshift tourniquet to slow the bleeding.

As Ludmer recovers in the hospital from surgery to his injured leg, students at Calabasas High showed their support for their beloved teacher. On Tuesday, they held a walk-out and rally against to gun violence.

Ludmer says he doesn't know why anyone would need an assault rifle like the one suspected gunman Paul Ciancia allegedly had when he opened fire. The 29-year-old says he's eternally grateful to the airport police officers who risked their lives to make sure he survived.

"The feeling of relief after hearing the voices and peeking out and seeing that was in fact police, I can't even describe," said Ludmer.

Ludmer says despite the risk to themselves, those two police officers put him in an airport wheelchair and ran out to awaiting paramedics. Ludmer says he still needs one more surgery, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Vigil held for slain TSA agent

In an emotional show of solidarity Monday night, more than 100 TSA officers and their supporters gathered on Dockweiler State Beach for a candlelight vigil to honor one of their own. They shared heartbreaking testimonials about Gerardo Hernandez. The 39-year-old is the first TSA agent to die in the line of duty.

Those who knew Hernandez say he was a consistently smiling fixture inside Terminal 3 for the last five years. Many say he helped save lives during the airport shooting and called him a hero.

"Gerardo, I'm going to miss you. I love you like a brother man, and you will never be forgotten; I guarantee," said William Campos.

"I just thank God for every day and the opportunity to meet Gerardo so that he could touch all of our lives because he really was a beautiful human being," another man said.

Two other TSA officers were wounded. James Speer, 54, has been treated and released from the hospital along with Tony Grigsby, 36, who spoke publicly for the first time Monday.

"After I was shot, I got to the area where the planes were at, and people were coming toward me and asking me, 'Were you shot? What's going on?' All I could think about was helping them. I may be injured right now, but the concern is really to take care of you," said Grigsby.

Motive for shooting still under investigation

Meanwhile, the FBI says it continues to go through suspected gunman Paul Ciancia's cellphone, searching for materials reflecting his views on the legitimacy and activities of the U.S. government, including a plot to impose a new world order.

In a search warrant filed on Monday, the FBI wrote, "From a bag that Ciancia was carrying, law enforcement officers obtained a handwritten note bearing Ciancia's name, which professed a desire to kill multiple TSA employees and made reference to his concerns about a New World Order (NWO)."

FBI agents pored through Ciancia's Sun Valley townhouse on Monday, walking out with a man who left in a car matching the description of the vehicle that dropped Ciancia off at LAX before the shooting. An acquaintance said Ciancia told one of his roommates he needed a ride to the airport on Friday to take care of family issues.

Ciancia remains hospitalized and reportedly unresponsive. Over the weekend, he was charged with murder of a federal officer and commission of violence at an international airport. If convicted, Ciancia could face the death penalty.


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