The Daily Breeze, Brad Graverson / AP
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 | 12:05 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of colleagues of the Transportation Security Administration officer killed by a rampaging gunman at the Los Angeles International Airport celebrated his life Tuesday at an emotional service that included prayers, song and memories of a cheerful man who colleagues said cherished his family.
Gerardo Hernandez became the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty when a man authorities say held a grudge against his agency pulled a rifle from a bag and opened fire at the airport Nov. 1.
The service Tuesday at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena began with a solemn eulogy offered by the Rev. Paul Griesgraber, who quoted Psalm 23. It was followed by a soulful rendition of "Amazing Grace" performed by a chorus of blue-uniformed TSA officials.
As the group sang, some in the audience of law enforcement officers, firefighters and others wiped tears from their eyes. Among those in attendance were Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The mayor said Hernandez's upbeat manner "spread the love through every corner of this Earth" as he greeted travelers from around the world.
"Gerardo's story is like so many others in this city," Garcetti said. "Coming here from another country, another state, another place to call this home."
Born in El Salvador, Hernandez moved to the United States when he was 15. Four years later he met his wife, and they married on Valentine's Day in 1998. He was killed a week before his 40th birthday.
Hernandez had worked at LAX since 2010 and was checking IDs and boarding passes at Terminal 3 when a gunman walked up, pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a duffel bag and shot him at point-blank range, then shot him again as he lay wounded, authorities have said.
Two other TSA officers and a teacher were wounded before airport police wounded the gunman. Paul Ciancia remains hospitalized and has been charged with crimes that could get him the death penalty.
The shooting sent swarms of passengers fleeing to find hiding places.
Two other TSA officers and a teacher waiting at a security checkpoint were wounded within minutes before airport police shot the gunman four times in the mouth and leg.
Paul Ciancia, who remains hospitalized, has been charged with first-degree murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport, but he will not appear in court until he is cleared by doctors.
Ciancia, a 23-year-old unemployed motorcycle mechanic, had a handwritten letter stating he made the conscious decision to try to kill multiple TSA officers and "instill fear in your traitorous minds."
While authorities say he targeted TSA officers, a motive is unclear.
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.