LAX shooting happened while officers away - AP


The details emerged as investigators continue to review the overall response.

The accused gunman, Paul Ciancia, opened fire in Terminal 3 on Nov. 1, killing Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez and wounding three others. TSA officers, who are unarmed, fled the screening area without hitting a panic button or using a landline to call for help. An airline contractor was able to alert a police dispatcher, who then alerted officers over the radio. Officials say the lag time was nearly a minute and a half.

Just minutes before the shooting, Los Angeles Airport Police Department officers assigned to the terminal decided to go one break, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

One of the armed officers was at or just outside an adjacent terminal. According to officials, one officer was on a bathroom break, and the other officer was headed for a meal break and was in a vehicle on the tarmac outside Terminal 3

The officers are required by departmental procedures to notify a dispatcher before going on break to ensure that supervisors are aware of their absence and, if necessary, a relief unit can be brought in.

Airport police union chief Marshall McClain said the both officers were still in position to quickly respond to the shooting.

"He hadn't gone on break yet. He was going to go on break," McClain said. What typically happens is, "if you're going to go on a lunch break, you get to your location and you tell them that you're there." Officers often do this in order to maximize their lunch break so they don't lose time while traveling.

Airport Police Chief Pat Gannon praised his officers for what he called a swift and brave response, adding that he was "comfortable with what the officers were doing at the time that the shooting occurred and their ability to respond to the incident."

"It's not about who was or was not there and how that all occurred," Gannon said. "Those officers responsible for that terminal were there as quick as anybody else was to deal with those particular issues. They were not goofing off."

Investigators believe Ciancia was targeting TSA workers, but it remains unclear what prompted his contempt for the agency. Ciancia has pleaded not guilty to 11 felonies, including first-degree murder, and faces a possible death sentence if convicted. The trial is set for Feb. 11.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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