LOS ANGELES – The Transportation Security Administration officer who was killed in a gunman's attack at Los Angeles International Airport died two to five minutes after he was shot, coroner's officials said Wednesday.
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said the autopsy report isn't finalized, but the detail was released after pressure to clarify when TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez died. The final report is expected to be released later this week, he said.
Authorities say Hernandez was shot when Paul Ciancia pulled a semi-automatic rifle out of a duffel bag inside Terminal 3 on Nov. 1 and started shooting, targeting TSA officers. Hernandez was hit multiple times and arrived at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center with no signs of life; emergency doctors worked for an hour to revive him but pronounced him dead after significant blood loss.
A preliminary coroner's report said a bullet hit Hernandez's aorta, the main artery in the body, which would have caused the massive bleeding, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the findings. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
That official and another law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly said Hernandez didn't receive aid until 33 minutes after the shooting, when he was wheeled to an ambulance by police because the area wasn't declared safe for paramedics to enter. Officers had subdued the gunman in less than five minutes, they said.
It's not known if immediate medical attention could have saved Hernandez's life. Officials are examining what conversations took place between police and fire commanders to determine when it was safe enough to enter, and whether paramedics could have gone into the terminal earlier, one of the officials said.
Formal conclusions could take months.
The head of the TSA union said he was appalled by the delay. American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. called the situation "very concerning" and said there should be a serious re-examination of TSA security policies.
Officers from multiple agencies bent down to check on Hernandez before moving on within minutes of him being shot until he was taken outside; no officers rendered first aid on scene, according to surveillance video reviewed by the law enforcement officials.
Union officials had speculated that a more timely response might have saved Hernandez's life.
Marshall McClain, who represents the airport police union, said medical response was delayed by a Los Angeles police officer who told responders that Hernandez was dead. McClain said an airport police officer told him he might have felt a faint pulse and immediately ran Hernandez in a wheelchair to paramedics 150 yards away, outside.
It's unclear how the LAPD officer determined Hernandez was dead or if he was qualified to do so. The coroner's finding indicates Hernandez was probably already dead when the officer checked on him, five minutes after he was shot.
LAPD said it would still investigate whether the veteran officer hindered efforts to rescue Hernandez because it always examines allegations against officers. McClain said he couldn't comment on an active internal investigation.
A recent audit by Los Angeles Police Commission inspector found that the LAPD had a zero percent compliance rate for state mandated first aid and CPR refresher training, excluding its Metropolitan Division.
Ciancia was transferred from a hospital into U.S. Marshals custody of Tuesday. He could face the death penalty if convicted of a federal murder charge.
Authorities say Ciancia targeted TSA workers in a vendetta against the federal government when he shot Hernandez, along with two other TSA workers and a teacher who survived.