Fil-Am traveler recounts chaotic LAX shooting scene

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Nov. 4, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Francis Aquino was looking forward to attending a wedding in Indiana over the weekend, but instead he was a witness to the chaos after a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport terminal 3 over the weekend.

“I just saw people started running and then the Starbucks manager pushed us into the back room of Starbucks and she said there was a shooter at the security checkpoint,” Aquino, who was buying a cup of coffee at the time of the incident, said.

While Aquino said he didn’t have a view of suspected gunman Paul Anthony Ciancia, he was fearful while being crammed into the back office of the restaurant with other scared and emotional passengers. “Is this really happening, what’s happening and what’s going to happen to me,” he recalled thinking.

The alleged shooter, Ciancia, is described a 23-year-old unemployed mechanic who moved to Los Angeles some 18 months ago. His background hits close to home for Aquino. A few blocks from Aquino’s home is the Rancho Los Feliz complex where Ciancia reportedly lived for a brief time earlier this year.

Police were at the complex over the weekend. Investigators say Ciancia went to LAX intent on harming Travel Security Administration officers and possibly killing himself as well.

He was injured during the gun battle with police and remains in the hospital. He now faces murder charges and federal prosecutors say they may seek the death penalty.

“He targeted, specifically, TSA officers. His intent was very, very clear in his note. We did recover a note at the crime scene. In that note, he indicated his anger and his malice, I would say, toward the TSA officers,” David Bowdich of the FBI said.

While the chaos, which left TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez dead and others injured, stayed within Terminal 3, the entire airport, and nearby areas, were also affected. Aquino and other Filipinos were among some 167-thousand passengers in 1,500 flights that were delayed or cancelled.

Travelers were stuck inside the airport, as some walked miles to their terminals hoping to still catch flights despite ground stops.

”We couldn’t get our luggage and we’ve been waiting for six hours since the airport was locked down,” Mike Santos, a passenger, said.

LAX’s Terminal 3 fully reopened by Sunday, with TSA officers wearing black bands honoring Hernandez, the first TSA officer to be killed on duty in the federal agency’s twelve year history.

As the airport returned to normal operations, LAX officials said there will be a visible increase in police presence hoping it can give passengers a sense of security after last Fridays chaos. While screening procedures were a bit longer, Filipinos at the airport said they did feel safer. Passengers have also been allowed to retrieve lost belongings and luggage left behind on Friday, as the investigation continues.

FBI agents have been searching the Sun Valley home of Ciancia, questioning people believed to be his roommates.

Reports said his roommates claim that while they knew Ciancia did not like the TSA, they did not have any knowledge of the shooting. Ciancia had told his roommates he was visiting his family in the Eastcoast and asked one of them for a ride to the airport on Friday morning.

You may contact Steve Angeles at for more information.

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  • Kikay Pang0
    5 November 2013 at 4:33 am - Reply

    The manager is looking to those people for not paying their coffee including Aquino.