LOS ANGELES – The wife of the Transportation Security Administration screener who was fatally shot at Los Angeles International Airport during a shooting rampage said Saturday her husband was “always there to help anyone in need.”
Standing outside their home a day after the shooting claimed the life of Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, his wife, Ana, expressed her grief to the media.
“We are hurting,” she said. “I am truly devastated.”
Flanked by TSA Administrator John Pistole, Ana Hernandez said her husband was “always excited to go to work.” The youngest of four siblings, she said, Gerardo moved to the United States from El Salvador at age 15 and graduated from Los Angeles High School.
Ana Hernandez said she was 16 and he was 19 when the couple met.
They married in 1998 on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s devastating because he was such a great guy,” one of Hernandez’s friends, Kevin Maxwell, told local news affiliate KNBC. Maxwell said Hernandez was the “very proud” father of a boy and a girl.
Gerardo Hernandez was the sole fatality Friday when a gunman – identified by police as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23 – opened fire inside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 9 a.m.
Authorities on Saturday were trying to learn a motive.
A law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that the gunman had a note expressing “disappointment in the government” and saying he had no interest in hurting “innocent people.” Ciancia, a New Jersey native who lived most recently in Los Angeles, also sent a sibling a text message last week suggesting that he was prepared to die, officials said.
Another law enforcement official told The Times that investigators were looking into the possibility that the shooter “wasn’t a fan of the TSA.”
Authorities said that Ciancia, carrying a high-powered rifle, approached several people cowering in the terminal, pointed the gun at them and asked if they “were TSA.” If the answer was no, he moved on without pulling the trigger. A witness told The Times that the gunman cursed the TSA repeatedly as he moved through the terminal.
The incident was over in less than 10 minutes but caused chaos at the world’s sixth-busiest airport and disrupted thousands of flights across the nation.
As gunfire rang out through the terminal, travelers and employees crawled on the floor and ducked behind planters and advertising kiosks. Passengers tripped over one another and abandoned baggage as they barreled backward through the security checkpoint.
Ciancia was wounded in a brief gun battle, arrested and taken to a hospital where he remained in critical condition Saturday morning. Several others were injured by the gunfire.
One neighbor, who declined to give his name, said Hernandez once paid him a visit after the neighbor’s home was burglarized. He offered help and gave tips on installing security and surveillance. Hernandez’s home was burglarized soon after.
“He was a very nice man,” the neighbor said.
Another neighbor said Hernandez would chat-and sometimes commiserate-about being government employees. It was rough, Hernandez would say, getting up early enough to be at his post at the airport by 3 a.m.
Hernandez was one of two shooting victims taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. When he arrived, doctors said it was evident there was no chance of survival.
A round of shots broke into fragments inside his torso and caused chest injuries and debilitating internal bleeding.
“We made every effort to stop the bleeding and get the heart to beat on its own,” Dr. David Plurad told NBC News.
TSA Administrator Pistole, who appeared outside the Hernandez home with Ana, called the incident “a senseless tragedy.”
“This is a time of great reflecting for us,” he said.
Pistole said officials will be examining their policies and assessing them, though he acknowledged: “We can’t guard against all threats and all risks.”