Federal agents are investigating the possible ties of the New Jersey suspect in the fatal shooting at Los Angeles International Airport to a widely circulated conspiracy theory that the U.S. government is preparing to establish a totalitarian state.
The FBI got a warrant Monday to search the cellphone of alleged gunman Paul Ciancia for materials reflecting his "views on the legitimacy or activities of the United States government, including the existence of a plot to impose a New World Order," according to court documents.
Ciancia, a 23-year-old unemployed motorcycle mechanic from Pennsville, N.J., got a ride to LAX on Friday morning with a roommate, walked into the airport and began targeting Transportation Security Administration officers, authorities said.
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By the time LAX police officers subdued him with several gunshots, one TSA officer had been killed and two others injured.
Ciancia's family has offered sympathy to the family of slain TSA screener Gerardo I. Hernandez. In a brief statement read by a family attorney in front of the Pennsville Police Department yesterday, family members also expressed shock at the rampage and hope for the recovery of the surviving victims.
One of those officers, Tony Grigsby, spoke for the first time publicly, saying he was trying to help an elderly man get to safety when the gunman shot him in the right foot. He hobbled with a cane outside his South Los Angeles home, where he fought back tears recalling Hernandez as a wonderful person who will be missed.
"Only now it has hit me that I will never see him again," Grigsby said.
Co-workers, friends and others gathered Monday night for a tribute to Hernandez at a beach near the airport.
"He was loved," Jose Araujo, one of hundreds of people who gathered at Dockweiler State Beach, told KNBC-TV. "He's going to be missed and he's never going to be forgotten."
The other wounded TSA officer has been released from the hospital, the agency said, and the condition of high school teacher Brian Ludmer, who was shot in the calf, was upgraded from fair to good.
Why airport security officers apparently came to personify oppression remained unclear.
The assault rifle used in the attack and a handwritten note found in a bag had TSA inspection stickers on them, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The rant spoke of how TSA searches were a violation of constitutional rights and a vulgar term was used to refer to Janet Napolitano, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA.
The screed also mentioned the "NWO," an apparent reference to the new world order belief that holds an international cabal of elites is planning to take away the guns and personal freedoms of Americans. Perceived masterminds behind the conspiracy have shifted over several generations, among them bankers, communists and the government itself.
The TSA does not regularly feature as a target of the theory's ire, according to Mark Potok, who has studied extremist groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center. More typically, believers focus on another homeland security agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which according to the theory plans to build camps to detain resisters to the new order, Potok said.
Potok said he has seen no evidence that Ciancia was personally involved in hate groups.
Ciancia remained in critical condition and any court appearance on charges of first-degree murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport will depend on when his doctors say he's ready, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.