Lapses during airport attack draw harsh reactions

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm •  Published: March 19, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles International Airport is inexcusably lacking in its capacity to deal with a crisis, local and national government officials said, describing communication lapses described in a report on last year's deadly airport shooting as a "failure" and an "embarrassment."

All of the officials were quick to praise the Transportation Security Administration officer who was killed and the officers who took down and arrested a suspect, but they said the airport's emergency response — hindered by communication problems and poor coordination — has to change quickly and thoroughly.

"I would say this is a nationwide failure so far," Mayor Eric Garcetti said about the inability of responding agencies to communicate with each other on their radios. "For us to be 13 years almost ... after 9/11 still trying to figure out a way to talk to each other frustrates me as a policymaker, frustrates me as the mayor of the second biggest city in America, frustrates me as a leader of this airport too, which is consistently a target for international terrorism and domestic terrorism."

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, whose district includes the airport, was more blunt, saying she was "shocked and dismayed" at the system that "clearly failed on this critical day."

"This report is an embarrassment," Waters said in a statement, noting the airport operator spends $125 million a year on security. "With this level of investment, LAX should have a state-of-the-art emergency response system."

Garcetti expressed particular frustration over the lack of communication between the airport and travelers, many of whom were left clueless in the aftermath of the Nov. 1 incident. Garcetti said he found himself giving out information as he walked through the airport on the day of the attack, and that airport officials "shouldn't have to rely on people like myself."

The 83-page report released Tuesday was as notable for the lapses it left out as for those it highlighted.

While spotlighting flaws in various airport divisions, 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.

The 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 TSA officer was killed and three other people were injured.

However, it also detailed problems in technology and coordination while including about 50 recommendations and lessons learned.

"Had the attacker not been highly selective in his targets," the report said, "the outcome might have been far different."

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.