Coroner: LAX agent died minutes after shooting
Hernandez lay on the floor for 33 minutes before he was rushed to an ambulance, but he died between 2 and 5 minutes
By Tami Abdollah
LOS ANGELES — The security officer killed earlier this month by a gunman at Los Angeles International Airport died between two and five minutes after being shot, according to coroner's officials.
Wednesday's statement came after The Associated Press reported that agencies are investigating whether medics could have reached Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez more quickly after the Nov. 1 shooting.
Hernandez lay on the floor for 33 minutes before he was rushed to an ambulance outside, even though the gunman had been subdued within five minutes, officials told AP. But it was unclear whether immediate medical attention could have saved his life.
Although Hernandez's autopsy hasn't been finalized, there was pressure to clarify when he died, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Wednesday. More details were expected in a final report this week, he said.
Formal conclusions could take months, but what's known raises the possibility that a lack of coordination between police and fire officials prevented speedy treatment for victims.
Authorities say Paul Ciancia was targeting TSA workers in a vendetta against the federal government when he pulled a semi-automatic rifle out of a bag and shot Hernandez.
In court documents and interviews, authorities say Ciancia fired repeatedly at Hernandez then went up an escalator, turned back to see Hernandez move, and returned to shoot him again.
He then fired on two other uniformed TSA employees and an airline passenger, who all were wounded, before airport police shot him.
Hernandez eventually arrived at the hospital with no signs of life and doctors worked for an hour to revive him.
A preliminary coroner's report said a bullet hit Hernandez's aorta, 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 AP on condition of anonymity.
In the chaos after the shooting, officers from multiple agencies checked on Hernandez before moving on, including at least one within three minutes of him being shot; no officers rendered first aid on scene, according to surveillance video reviewed by two law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Officials were examining what conversations took place between police and fire commanders to determine when it was safe enough to enter, and whether paramedics could have entered the terminal earlier, one of the officials said.
Airport officials said in a statement Wednesday that agencies are conducting "numerous investigations" and would release a report once they're completed.
Hernandez's lack of quick aid prompted the head of his union, J. David Cox Sr., to say he was appalled, and a local union official said a more timely response might have saved Hernandez's life. The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating whether one of its officers improperly told other responders that Hernandez was dead when he checked on him five minutes after the shooting.
Airport police union President Marshall McClain has said the officer shouldn't have been the one to determine whether Hernandez was dead and should have helped him. While it was unclear if the officer was qualified to assess Hernandez's medical condition, the coroner's finding indicates Hernandez was likely dead at that point.
McClain declined to comment Wednesday because of the active investigation.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement Wednesday that the coroner's report shows Hernandez could not have been saved. He criticized "irresponsible" media reports.
"What concerns me most about this is that it brought needless trauma to the grieving family members of Officer Hernandez," Beck said.
Ciancia, 23, could face the death penalty if convicted of a federal murder charge.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press