Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Family of Slain TSA Agent Sues Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The widow of the Transportation Security Administration officer killed by a shooter at a checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport filed a wrongful death lawsuit that blames inadequate airport security for her husband's death.

Ana Machuca, widow of the late Gerardo Ismael Hernandez, sued Los Angeles World Airports, City of Los Angeles, The Airport Police at Los Angeles, LAPD, the city's fire department and the County of Los Angeles, on Tuesday in Superior Court.

Hernandez was killed on the morning of Nov. 1, 2013, after the alleged shooter Paul Ciancia entered LAX carrying a bag containing a semiautomatic, a 223-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle, five 30-round magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He arrived at the checkpoint unchallenged and allegedly shot Hernandez with the rifle. He is accused of injuring seven others.

"Police officers were not present to stop Ciancia or protect Hernandez, as the officers left their assigned posts without reporting in or calling for backup officers, leaving the terminal without adequate security," the 20-page lawsuit states.

Security was so lax, Machuca claims, that Ciancia was able to return to the checkpoint a second time to shoot her husband again. Hernandez was shot 12 times, according to a coroner's report.

He lay wounded for more than 30 minutes before receiving medical attention, according to his wife. But he died within minutes of being shot.

Personnel had not been drilled on how to respond to shootings at the airport or evacuate the wounded, the widow says.

The city knew for years that several key security measures had been overlooked, according to the lawsuit.

Neglected policies included a requirement that police officers stand within 300 feet of screening areas, and that authorities use closed circuit TV to monitor checkpoints, Machuca says.

Emergency and alert warning systems such as red 911 phones and panic buttons are outdated or in a state of disrepair, she adds.

"When 911 calls were made, operators were unable to determine where the calls were coming from, delaying response time of emergency personnel. The 911 system at LAX did not go to airport police and this issue was identified and addressed as problematic years before this incident, putting defendants on notice of the deficiencies and dangers," the complaint states.

As many as 12 panic buttons were out of action, Machuca claims.

"Had the panic buttons been operational they would have automatically notified the authorities of an emergency and pointed a camera toward the area in question, giving police a bird's eye view into the situation, making the rendering of aid to decedent and securing the facility possible," the lawsuit states.

Machuca accuses the city of diverting tens of millions of dollars meant for police security by failing to track LAX revenue set aside for security. She claims that almost $7.87 million in charges for police services are not supported by records.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General concluded that $49 million set aside for policing was "illegally diverted by defendants," the complaint states.

Machuca says the county and city rejected her claims for damages in April and May, respectively.

She seeks damages for liability for injuries caused by employee within scope of employment; liability for injuries caused by independent contractors; liability for injuries caused arising from mandatory duty of public entity; liability for injuries caused by failure to inspect, or negligent inspection of property; and liability for injuries caused by dangerous condition of property.

Hernandez's children Luis G. Hernandez and Stephanie M. Hernandez are also parties to the lawsuit.

They are represented by Michael Alder of AlderLaw.

Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles City Attorney's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ciancia's trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 8.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.