LAX shooting: Biggest failure was lack of communication, mayor says (updated)

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Lack of communication was one of the issues cited in a report released Tuesday by Los Angeles International Airport officials looking into the emergency response to last year's shooting that killed one TSA officer and injured three others.

The so-called "after action report" — prepared by Los Angeles World Airport officials in charge of public safety and security — was intended to summarize and evaluate how police, fire, paramedics, and others responded to the shooting last November at LAX. (Full recommendations are the end of this story.)

"The biggest failure was the lack of communication" for passengers and community around LAX, said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking at a late-morning news conference.

The conference came ahead of a noon meeting of the Board of Airport Commissioners, when the group will hear a presentation on the report.

On Nov. 1, a man carrying an assault rifle opened fire inside Terminal 3 on a busy morning. Authorities believe the gunman targeted Transportation Security Administration workers. TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez was the first TSA employee to be killed on the job. Two other TSA officers were also shot and survived. An airline passenger was also shot and lived.

RELATED: KPCC's coverage of the shooting at LAX

The response by the police and security at the airport have come under scrutiny since the shooting.

The phone system and some panic buttons inside Terminal 3 had not been working properly when the shooting happened. The first call to LA airport police was not completed because the caller ran for safety before revealing what terminal they were calling from. Also, the phone system couldn’t track where the call came from. The LAX police chief said the problem has since been fixed.

Two airport police officers assigned to Terminal 3 that day were found to be on rest breaks. The airport police union has criticized the department for not having an officer stationed at each security checkpoint.

Speaking at Tuesday's news conference, LAX police chief Patrick M. Gannon said his department won't be going back to fixed posts at TSA checkpoints, but he also noted that airport police didn't violate any TSA mandates on the day of the shooting.

At a state legislative hearing last month, Gannon gave this timeline of the shooting:

9:19:59 — Gunman shoots TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez

9:21:22 — LAXPD dispatch broadcasts shots fired in Terminal 3

9:25:30 — LAXPD officers reported that suspect was down at Gate 35

He defended the response by his department.

“The total time elapsed from the time that the call was broadcast to time that the suspect was taken into custody was 4 minutes and 8 seconds,” Gannon said last month. He added officers spent part of that time clearing the area, rendering the weapon safe and handcuffing the suspect to take him into custody.

Paul Ciancia, 24, has been charged with 11 federal counts, including murder and attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Federal prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

“The U.S. Attorney General is personally charged with making the final decision about whether to seek the death penalty in a particular case,” according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors have asked Ciancia’s defense attorneys to submit facts or mitigating factors to U.S. Attorney General by June to be considered in his decision about the death penalty. A decision is expected by July 3.

Approximately 7,000 pages of reports, interview memos and documents have been given to the defense team, according to court filings. In addition, 141 video, audio recordings, photos, bank records, and records have been handed over as part of the discovery process.

A status conference is scheduled for August 11.

Major observations and recommendations from the report

To provide focus for LAWA’s efforts toward continuous improvement in its security and emergency preparedness programs, the following seven priority observations merit special consideration. The full inventory of nineteen observations and associated recommendations are covered in detail within the Observations and Recommendations section of this report. They are labeled here as they appear in that section. In addition, page numbers for the full text of each observation are provided for reference.

  • Observation 1: Security and Incident Prevention (Page 14)

Personnel, procedures, and technology related to the security of the Airport and the public it serves must be layered and fully integrated to ensure a holistic an effective security risk mitigation program.

Recommendation 1.1: Evolve the LAX security program to reflect a more integrated assessment of security risk and provide for the ongoing development and management of mitigation measures.
Recommendation 1.2: Based on the risk assessment and updated security plan, consider the focus and structure of security functions to determine whether realignment and integration are needed.
Recommendation 1.3: With the benefit of recent vulnerability and risk assessments, take a risk-based approach to evaluating current security programs and explore intelligent use of technology.

  • Observation 4: Alert and Response Mobilization (Page 26)

The right systems, clear lines of responsibility, and well-documented processes for alert notification are critical to avoiding delay in mobilizing a response during the early stages of any emergency.

Recommendation 4.1: Explore and make needed enhancements to emergency alerting methods, technologies, and protocols to include 911 call handling and a more reliable Red Phone system.
Recommendation 4.2: Ensure singular responsibility for administrating notification processes and systems as an integrated program and perform audits, tests, and updates on a regular basis.
Recommendation 4.2 [sic]: Address core staffing and augmentation support needed in the LAWAPD Communications Unit and in the communications and call handling functions of the DOC/ARCC.

  • Observation 6: Evolution of Incident Command (Page 32)

Disciplined build-out of the incident command structure and deliberate integration of all response partners is key to achieving unity of command and leveraging the full capability of all available assets.

Recommendation 6.1: Make efforts to address the naturally occurring organizational bias that may inhibit full integration of public safety and civilian operations in unified incident command.
Recommendation 6.2: Expand LAWA’s Readiness Assessment and Performance Improvement Drills to train and evaluate staff in executing incident command and the build-out of an ICS organization.
Recommendation 6.3: Advance on-going “position-specific” training for police, civilian personnel, and public safety partners to ensure readiness to fulfill key roles in the incident command structure.

  • Observation 8: Department Operations Center (Page 41)

Achieving the DOC's full potential requires synchronizing the ICP/DOC interface, trained staff, and processes to support decision-making and resource management, and senior leadership participation.

Recommendation 8.1: Resolve staffing and process constraints that limit the DOC’s ability to develop a common operational picture and engage in coordinated incident planning with the ICP.
Recommendation 8.2: Conduct training and exercises that require competence in the exchange of situational awareness, coordinated planning, and joint decision-making between the ICP and DOC.
Recommendation 8.3: Establish an Executive Command Group of top senior leadership at LAWA and supplement it with senior leaders from other organizations as appropriate to the situation.

  • Observation 10: Public Mass Notification (Page 51)

Developing and integrating a full range of strategies and systems for public alert and mass notification are vital to ensuring awareness, safety, and comfort of those impacted by a crisis.

Recommendation 10.1: Fully integrate and exploit the potential of an LAX-wide Mass Notification System, capitalize on existing public address capability, and link these systems back to the LAX DOC.
Recommendation 10.2: Implement a mass notification strategy that capitalizes on all forms of real-time communication with the public, whether controlled by LAWA, its tenants, or regional partners.

  • Observation 13: Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place (Page 60)

Terminal evacuations must be enabled by effective public communications, personnel trained to guide and assist evacuee behavior, and rapid mobilization of additional help to ensure public safety.

Recommendation 13.1: Train LAWA and tenant personnel in shelter-in-place and evacuation procedures to ensure the safety of evacuees, particularly those with disabilities or special needs.
Recommendation 13.2: Support ongoing awareness of emergency evacuation and sheltering procedures through a sustained information campaign to include public address announcements.
Recommendation 13.3: Plan for rapid mobilization of LAWA police or civilian staff to any shelter-in-place or evacuation location to enable safe containment or evacuee marshalling and transport.

  • Observation 15: Passenger Assistance and Mass Care (Page 64)

Response plans must provide for mobilization of care for persons displaced by an emergency and with special needs, to include basic health and comfort, family reunification, and interim sheltering.

Recommendation 15.1: Conduct joint planning with the Red Cross to assess potential needs and develop strategies for delivering passenger assistance and mass care under a range of scenarios.
Recommendation 15.2: Estimate logistics requirements related to providing passenger assistance and mass care support and decide on the best ways to ensure immediate access to those resources.
Recommendation 15.3: Update existing plans and conduct training as required to provide effective passenger assistance and mass care to access and functional needs populations in an emergency.

LAX Active Shooter Incident and Resulting Airport Disruption: A Review of Response Operations

This story has been updated.

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