The head of the TSA union said Friday that the more than 30 minute delay of help for the TSA officer who was fatally shot at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month was “absolutely unacceptable” and that if he’d gotten help sooner he’d be alive today.
Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez was left unattended for 33 minutes after being shot at the airport on Nov. 1.
"I am appalled that Officer Hernandez was left unattended for 33 minutes after the brutal attack he suffered," said J. David Cox Sr., the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 45,000 TSA officers. "If someone had gotten to him earlier, this could have been a survival story. Instead a wife is left without a husband, children without a father, and coworkers without one of their beloved comrades."
Cox called for a “serious reexamination” of TSA’s screening area security policies to “stop the next tragedy before it happens.”
"The inconsistent patchwork of local law enforcement and security protocols simply won’t get the job done," he said.
Hernandez, 39, was working at a lower-level passenger check-in station when a gunman, who is suspected to be 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, pulled a semi-automatic weapon out of a duffel bag and began shooting.
Federal officials say the suspect was targeting TSA agents.
Two law enforcement officials cited in the AP reports said paramedics waited 150 yards away because police had not declared the terminal safe to enter.
No officers rendered first aid on scene, according to surveillance video reviewed by the officials. Finally, airport police put Hernandez in a wheelchair and ran him to an ambulance.
It would be 33 minutes before TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, who was about 20 feet from an exit, would be wheeled out by police to an ambulance, said the officials, who were briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was still ongoing into the shooting.
"Obviously it's in the back of our minds whether Officer Hernandez could have made it through," said Victor Payes, a TSA officer and local TSA union head. "We're all a little frustrated."
Trauma surgeon David Plurad said Hernandez had no signs of life when he arrived at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Doctors worked for about an hour to revive him despite significant blood loss.
For all but five of those minutes, there was no threat from the suspected gunman — he had been shot and was in custody, they said.
While it’s not known when Hernandez died or if immediate medical attention could have saved his 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 may take months to reach, but what’s known raises the possibility that a lack of coordination between police and fire officials prevented speedy treatment for Hernandez and other victims.
Representatives for the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Airport Police said they couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation until extensive reports are finished.
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