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Report details out-of-sync response to LAX shooter

Wednesday - 3/19/2014, 2:48am  ET

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2013 file photo provided to the AP, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, police officers stand near a weapon at the Los Angeles International Airport after a gunman opened fire in the terminal, killing one person and wounding several others. A report on the emergency response to the shooting cites serious shortcomings in communication between agencies that left major commanders in the dark and a long lag in establishing a coordinated response. (AP Photo/File)

TAMI ABDOLLAH
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles International Airport was ill prepared for a crisis when a gunman ambushed security officers last year, and the emergency response was hindered by communication problems and poor coordination, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report spotlighted flaws in various divisions of the airport and in systems that were in place, but it did not single out individuals responsible for problems.

It also didn't mention that two airport police officers assigned to Terminal 3 were out of position without notifying dispatchers, as required, or discuss a decision months before the shooting to have police officers roam terminals instead of staffing security checkpoints such as the one approached by the attacker.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said a number of issues detailed in the report have been addressed and work will continue on others.

"I expect this airport to take care of this airport," Garcetti said at a news conference. "It is not something where we're going to look for the cavalry to come in and to save us. ... We had a pretty good system, but pretty good isn't good for me."

The 83-page report was put together by a consultant based on findings by several agencies that responded to the shooting and a review of surveillance video, dispatch logs and 911 calls.

It cited the heroism of officers who shot and arrested Paul Ciancia after a Transportation Security Administration officer was killed and three other people were injured Nov. 1.

It also detailed lapses in technology and coordination, however, and included some 50 recommendations and lessons learned.

"Had the attacker not been highly selective in his targets, and/or had there been multiple attackers with weapons of greater lethality, the outcome might have been far different," the report said.

J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Tuesday the lack of coordination was "absolutely unacceptable" and medical aid to the fatally wounded TSA officer should not have been delayed.

The Associated Press previously found that the TSA officer was not taken to an ambulance for 33 minutes.

"This report confirmed what we already knew -- that the security processes and systems at LAX are fundamentally broken," Cox said.

The report called for training airport police in tactical medicine so they can help the injured before paramedics arrive, and for training paramedics to enter more dangerous zones earlier with law enforcement protection.

Cox also called the report incomplete and off-target in ignoring that law enforcement officers had been redeployed to roam terminals and that two officers were out of position when the shooting began.

LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon said he was satisfied with the activities of the officers. However, Garcetti said airport policies requiring notification must be enforced and officers should be reminded and retrained about those rules.

Cox called on the TSA and the airport board to take swift action to close security and emergency response gaps and said more needs to be done nationally to prevent such a situation from happening again. He said TSA officers, who are unarmed, shouldn't be in fear for their lives when going to work; they should know equipment will work and armed officers will be present when needed.

The TSA declined to comment on the report released Tuesday, saying a congressional hearing is planned next week in Los Angeles to discuss the shooting review.

The congresswoman whose district includes the airport, Maxine Waters, said she was "shocked and dismayed."

"This report is an embarrassment," Waters said in a statement. "LAX should have a state-of-the-art emergency response system."

Sean Burton, president of the board of airport commissioners, said LAX needs additional emergency management staff, more training, new equipment and better agreements with other responding agencies.

On Tuesday, airport board members asked LAX officials to provide a timeline for implementing the recommendations in the report. The board will be receiving quarterly progress reports.

The report, in detailing the poor communications during the attack, noted that airport police had previously upgraded to a $5.4 million high-tech radio system but often couldn't communicate with the 20 or more agencies on scene.

In addition, senior police and fire commanders had no idea where to go or what the others were doing, and they didn't unify multiple command posts for 45 minutes. There was nearly no communication between command post officials and the airport's emergency operations center, which the report described as being staffed by untrained midlevel managers.

The review also confirmed earlier AP reports, including that a TSA supervisor picked up a red phone immediately after the first shots were fired but hastily fled as the gunman approached.

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