Family of TSA agent killed in shooting sues Los Angeles, airport, county for $25 million

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LOS ANGELES — The widow and children of a Transportation Security Administration agent who was killed by a gunman at Los Angeles International Airport last fall are suing the city and county for $25 million.

The liability suit, filed Tuesday in Superior Court, alleges that security lapses and delayed medical care contributed to Gerardo Hernandez's death. It doesn't specify damages, but a claim the family previously filed with the city estimated damages at more than $25 million.

Hernandez, 39, was shot a dozen times by a gunman who entered a terminal on Nov. 1 and opened fire at a security checkpoint. Two other TSA workers and a passenger were wounded.

Paul Ciancia, a New Jersey native who was living in Sun Valley, has pleaded not guilty to 11 federal charges, including murder of a federal officer.

Authorities have said the gunman who entered Terminal 3 had a semi-automatic rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a grudge against the TSA.

The city attorney's office doesn't comment on pending litigation, spokesman Frank Mateljan said. A message left with the county counsel's office wasn't immediately returned.

The lawsuit contends that several factors contributed to Hernandez's death, including negligence in staff hiring, training and supervision; negligence in procedures, communication and coordination at the airport; and a more than half-hour delay before he received medical care.

Among other things, the suit alleges that officers from various agencies that handled airport security had left their posts without reporting in or arranging for backup.

A report by The Associated Press found that two armed airport police officers had taken breaks and were not inside the terminal when the shooting started. One had left for the bathroom in the next terminal over, and the other was headed to lunch.

The officers didn't inform dispatchers as required by department policy. The terminal was left without any armed officer for nearly 3.5 minutes as the gunman advanced.

An 83-page report commissioned by the city and released in March concluded the emergency response was hindered by communication and coordination problems. It noted that airport police had upgraded to a $5.4 million high-tech radio system but often couldn't communicate with the 20 or more agencies on scene.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Hernandez's widow, Ana Machuca, and their two children, Luis and Stephanie Hernandez. It names Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the airport; Los Angeles and its police and fire departments; and Los Angeles County.

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