Paul Anthony Ciancia’s family was worried about him.
The 23-year-old LAX shooting suspect reportedly sent his brother a text message Friday saying he was thinking about killing himself. Ciancia’s father called Pennsville, New Jersey, Police Chief Allen Cummings to see if he could help find his son, who’d been living in Los Angeles. Cummings called the LAPD, who sent a patrol car to Ciancia’s apartment and spoke to two roommates. They told the cops they saw him the day before. He was fine.
That same day, law enforcement officials say, Ciancia walked into Los Angeles International Airport, dressed in Army fatigues and armed with “hundreds of rounds” of ammunition. Several witnesses have said he seemed to be pointing his assault rifle only at TSA agents, managing to shoot and kill one officer, Gerardo I. Hernandez, and injuring several other people, before he was wounded by police and taken into custody. Police say he was carrying anti-government literature and a note on him that said he “wanted to kill TSA and pigs.”
"This was clearly a suicide mission,'' one law enforcement official said. "He did not expect to walk away from this.”
More details about the life of the young shooting suspect--who police say they believe acted alone--continue to emerge in the wake of Friday’s attack. Ciancia grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Pennsville, New Jersey, where his father, who owns an auto-body shop, still lives. His mother died in 2009 after suffering from an illness. According to The Los Angeles Times, Ciancia graduated from the private, Catholic Salesianum School in Wilmington, Delaware in 2008. Reporters spoke to classmates who recalled Ciancia as a shy loner who may have been bullied.
“He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot,” David Hamilton, who was in Ciancia’s class at Salesianum, told The L.A. Times. “I don’t really remember any one person who was close to him...In four years, I never heard a word out of his mouth.” He added that Ciancia appeared to be bullied. “He was quiet and people would take advantage of that,” he said.
Other classmates and acquaintances said different versions of the same thing. Jeff Skidmore, who also attended Salesianum with Ciancia, said he wore black on days when uniforms weren’t required and seemed to avoid speaking up in class because of a speech impediment. “We left him alone,” Skidmore said.
Marc Kreiner, the owner of a restaurant and bar next door to Ciancia’s apartment in the diverse L.A. neighborhood of Atwater Village, told reporters he recognized the shooting suspect's face as a quiet guy who’d been in the bar about six times, mostly alone but once with a few other guys. What Ciancia did in Los Angeles or how long he’d been living there are still unclear.
Investigators are looking into what, exactly, motivated this quiet young man to go after TSA agents and shoot up an airport terminal. The letters “NWO” were reportedly printed on one of the letters Ciancia was carrying with him at LAX, which could possibly refer to the New World Order--a conspiracy theory that alleges a secretive elite group is plotting to rule the world with a single, authoritarian government. Ciancia’s father told local NBC station KNBC that when he last spoke to his son, about a week ago, he commented on the state of the economy.
Unlike most people his age, Ciancia has virtually no Internet presence. Other than a speeding ticket, he has no visible police record either. His name has not been found on any watch list and its unclear what connection, if any, he had to the Transportation Security Administration.