LAX shooting survivor: I crawled for my life
He crawled into a closet and used a sweatshirt as a tourniquet to stop his leg from bleeding
By Raqual Maria Dillon
LOS ANGELES — A teacher who was wounded in last week's deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport said he crawled to escape a gunman and used a sweatshirt as a tourniquet after a bullet ripped his leg.
"I didn't know what his intention was," Brian Ludmer said from his hospital bed Tuesday. "I only saw me and him. ... I was in total panic."
Ludmer, 29, said he waited to get through a Terminal 3 security checkpoint on Friday when gunshots erupted.
One floor below, Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo I. Hernandez was killed and the gunman was trying to shoot other TSA workers.
Ludmer recalled that he and other travelers then pushed through metal detectors, scattering into the terminal and down ramps into bathrooms, shops and stores, even onto airplanes — anywhere to get away from the shooter.
As Ludmer ran, a bullet hit him in the calf.
"My leg collapsed. It just instantly wouldn't support me," he said. "Below the bullet wound my leg was just hanging."
He looked back and saw the gunman alone in the terminal hallway. Ludmer crawled to a shop, scrambled into a storage room and shut the door. He found a sweatshirt and tied it around his leg to slow the bleeding.
Ludmer was terrified that he would pass out and bleed to death or the gunman would follow and finish him off.
Soon, however, he heard voices, dragged himself to the door and peeked out. A wave of relief swept over him when he realized police officers were clearing the terminal.
Two officers told him they would get him out safely — but not quite yet, because the gunman might still be on the loose. Ludmer said his leg was bleeding, and he needed a paramedic. The officers helped him into a wheelchair and dashed through the terminal.
"They got me out of there, even though it was at great risk to themselves," he said. "They wheeled me out of there at a run."
They didn't know that airport police had actually shot and wounded the suspect, Paul Ciancia, within minutes of the attack.
Ludmer, who was heading to his hometown of Chicago to attend a weekend wedding, said he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and called the gunman "sick," mentally ill and delusional.
"But whether you're sick or not, I don't see any lawful purpose for having access to those sorts of weapons," he said. "I don't see the benefit that is outweighing the cost that it seems to be continually taking."
Ludmer needs one more surgery but doctors expect him to make a full recovery. Two other TSA agents wounded in the attack have been released from the hospital.
Federal agents are investigating possible ties between Ciancia and a widely circulated conspiracy theory that the U.S. government is preparing to establish a totalitarian state.
Ciancia, a 23-year-old unemployed motorcycle mechanic, remained hospitalized in critical condition. He has been charged with first-degree murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport but will not appear in court until he is cleared by doctors.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press