Suspect pleads guilty in LAX shooting

A man who opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport in 2013, killing a Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding three other people, has agreed to plead guilty, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Paul Anthony Ciancia had been facing a possible death sentence for the Nov. 1, 2013, shooting that killed TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, but the plea agreement would spare him from capital punishment, prosecutors said.

Ciancia is expected to formally enter the plea Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles.

He is expected to plead guilty to 11 criminal counts, including murder of a federal officer, attempted murder of a federal officer, violence at an international airport, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.

Although the plea will spare him the death penalty, he would still face life in prison on the murder count alone, according to the plea agreement.

According prosecutors, Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 at LAX and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, while carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition, along with a handwritten, signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and "instill fear in your traitorous minds."

Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.

The New Jersey native, who had been living in the Los Angeles area for about 18 months, was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police.

Prosecutors previously told the judge they had accumulated more than 10,000 pages and 150 DVDs of discovery in the case, including material collected during a probe of Ciancia's background in the small town of Pennsville, New Jersey, which they have presented to the defense.

According to the plea agreement, Ciancia sent text messages to his brother and sister while he was being driven to the airport on the morning of the shooting that largely amounted to goodbye missives.

"I'm so sorry that I have to leave you pre-maturely, but it is for the greater good of humanity," he wrote in the message to his brother, according to the court document. "This was the purpose I was brought here. I won't

In the message to his sister, he wrote that "someone has got to stand up to these tyrants."

"I don't want your kids to grow up in a totalitarian state," Ciancia wrote. "... Please don't let the story be skewed. there wasn't a terrorist attack on Nov. 1. There was a pissed off patriot trying to water the tree of liberty. I know a text message is the (expletive) way to say goodbye. I couldn't let someone talk me out of this. Love, Paul."

After he shot Hernandez at a passenger ID checkpoint inside Terminal 3, the officer fell to the ground and Ciancia got on an escalator heading into the terminal, but when he saw Hernandez move, Ciancia went back and shot Hernandez again, prosecutors said. Hernandez was shot a total of 12 times.

Moving back into the terminal, Ciancia shot TSA Officers Tony Leroy Grigsby and James Maurice Speer, along with a civilian, Brian Ludmer.

Ciancia continued into terminal, but was shot by police, who recovered a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle, along with various ammunition magazines. Prosecutors said Ciancia brought 500 rounds of ammunition to the airport.

In response to the plea, the TSA released the following statement:

"We appreciate the hard work of the U.S. Attorney's Office to provide a measure of closure to this terrible tragedy. Our officers, the first responders, airport and airline employees and passengers will always remember
this was not just an attack on TSA and Officer Hernandez, it was an attack on all of us.

"We hope the family of Mr. Hernandez and those who were injured can find some measure of peace in the fact that justice has been served."