A $25 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by the widow of a Transportation Security Administration officer who died in a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport will be tried in federal court, according to papers obtained Friday.
The widow of Gerardo Hernandez filed the lawsuit in October in state civil court on behalf of herself and her children, naming Los Angeles World Airports — the operators of LAX — the Los Angeles Airport Police, city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles County.
The complaint was transferred to federal court last week.
Ana Machuca contends her husband’s death, allegedly at the hands of Paul Anthony Ciancia, could have been avoided.
Ciancia, 24, is facing the death penalty in the killing of Hernandez, the first TSA agent to die in the line of the duty since the agency was founded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Hernandez was shot to death and three other people — including two other TSA officers — were wounded when the gunman opened fire Nov. 1, 2013, inside Terminal 3 at LAX.
Ciancia, a New Jersey native who had been living in Sun Valley, is due in Los Angeles federal court Monday for a conference to discuss the status of his case.
The lawsuit accuses LAWA, and airport police, who are in charge of security at LAX, of not keeping airport travelers and employees safe.
“Police officers were not present to stop Ciancia or protect Hernandez (because) the officers left their assigned posts without reporting in or calling for backup officers,” the suit says. “Ciancia was able to freely walk about, go up an escalator, return to the checkpoint and shoot Hernandez … because inadequate security was present at the terminal.”
The suit also alleges that it took too long for aid to be provided to Hernandez.
“Hernandez lay wounded … without medical attention for more than 30 minutes,” the suit states. “Hernandez was in immediate need of medical attention.”
The suit also alleges the airport failed to enhance security as recommended by the Santa Monica-based think tank RAND Corp. in 2004 and 2006 and that 911 “red phones” at the airport were “outdated and in some instances were not working properly.”
The complaint further alleges that airport police did not take part in anti-terrorist committees and task forces with other police agencies and that this omission “impacted prevention and alignment of resources.”
Last March, an 83-page city-commissioned report on the shooting was released, and it pointed out failures in communication and coordination between police and fire departments that led to delays in the establishment of a unified command center after the shooting. The various agencies also could not effectively communicate due to incompatible radio systems, the report found.
The report made dozens of recommendations aimed at bolstering security and emergency response, and warned that the shooting could have been far deadlier if the perpetrator had been more sophisticated or if there had been multiple suspects.