WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Case of Sallies grad Paul Ciancia terrorizing LAX shows how numbing violence can come from anywhere...

The story unfolded in stages Friday and early Saturday: First, we knew that a gunman had unleashed violence at Los Angeles International Airport; then we heard that he had targeted Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers; by mid-afternoon Friday, the violence hit home as we learned the gunman had grown up in Pennsville, New Jersey, just across the river from Wilmington; then, the numbing news that Paul Ciancia was a graduate of Salesianum School in Wilmington, Class of 2008.

An almost unbelievable stain on the Salesianum brotherhood, and the school's central mission of inculcating Christian values in the tradition of St. Francis de Sales, even though Salesianum's extended family is the innocent party.

Almost immediately, Sallies grads from that period were searching their memories. What could they remember about young Paul? Many could remember very little. Two former classmates recalled him as a loner, according to the Los ANGELES TIMES. (I fear that description comes up all too often in the cases of these young men who unleash terrible violence. Is that the M.O. for these shooters - or if the young person wasn't very much involved in sports or other extra-curriculars, just dutifully went to classes - is that the inevitable conclusion people make in retrospect?)

By some accounts, young Paul was a member of the band at Salesianum, so it's not as though he didn't participate in ANYTHING. Those with recollections are sharply divided over whether Paul had been bullied. In the end, we may never know if his experiences in high school had anything to do with the bloodshed he unleashed at LAX. We may never know if the cliques, or the culture, or some incident, put this young man on a path of increasing alienation. If so, it apparently was not even noticeable to his roommate or roommates in Los Angeles, based on reports of an LAPD visit to the residence.

A roommate apparently drove Paul Ciancia to LAX, but reports say that roommate didn't know that Ciancia was about to unleash a rampage at the airport. I find that part of the story rather untenable. This requires the driver not to have noticed an assault rifle bulging from Ciancia's duffel bag NOR any obvious change in Ciancia's mood as he was contemplating the bloodshed.

Officers apparently arrived at Ciancia's apartment about 45 minutes after Ciancia asked his roommate to drive him to the airport. Police got the call to check out the residence after his family in Pennsville received a disturbing text message. (The text message was sent to his little brother.) Ciancia's dad had called Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings, and Cummings called L.A.P.D.

Once again, we see the futility of protecting society from such carnage: Ciancia's gun purchases appear to have been legal. So far, no evidence that he had ever sought psychiatric help. Obviously, for all the intelligence surveillance of suspected terrorists, nothing would have warned about the activities of a solitary individual... unless Ciancia's hatred of T.S.A. agents and government turned up somewhere in social media. We shall see. The incident renews the debate over the wisdom of arming T.S.A. officers.

(Incredible irony: Ciancia raged against the T.S.A. for treating ALL people like potential terrorists, when - indeed - his very example underscores how eruptions of violence can occur from nearly any corner.)

I pity the vast family of Salesianum students, graduates, faculty, administrators, and supporters who forever will have this tragedy indelibly linked with Sallies, just as Kent State University will be forever tied with the National Guard shootings. A recent alum technically eligible for the death penalty! I pity the small riverside community of Pennsville. Most of all, I pity the Ciancia family in Pennsville.

Here's the L.A. TIMES' reporting from Pennsville, New Jersey---


Posted at 7:17am on November 4, 2013 by Allan Loudell

<- Back to all Allan Loudell posts

Comments on this post:

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 10:11am
I was curious how this story would play out in the media… especially in the local Delaware media due to the Sallies' connection. It’s sad that Salesianum will be “marked” by one lone individual who was suicidal. Place the blame upon the individual who, rather than simply reaching out for help… or even ending his own life, decided to kill others and “go out” in “fame”. No one seemed to remember him from school or anywhere else (much like the Columbine murderers, the Joker in Colorado, the Virginia Tech killer and Lanza in Connecticut)… so he decided to turn his rage on innocent people and become “famous”. Again, it’s not the tool that’s used; it’s the person who was mentally unstable… maybe the law should have acted more quickly to find this young student when his father/relatives told LAPD that he was suicidal. Same can be said for the Columbine duo, the Joker, VT killer and Lanza… they left more than enough signs that they were a danger to society yet the “laws” protected their privacy. Maybe the law should stop going after innocent people and start allowing mental health records, deemed important to protect law abiding citizens, to be available for law-enforcement.

We do not need to arm the TSA; that’s the last thing we need…TSA instead needs to be taken apart. Use trained/ armed guards who are responsible for only one job…protecting travelers instead of government employed rent-a-cops. Israel’s El Al gets it… why can’t we? If we had security like the Israelis, I seriously doubt this shooting would have happened and think the TSA agent would still be alive.

If our country refuses to “profile” everyone equally and watch anyone acting strangely… we should at least add a few more K-9 units to roam airports, train stations and bus stations. A K-9 would have been able to pick up the scent of the gunpowder in the killer’s bag… even if his room-mate could not.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Nov 4, 2013 10:33am
I've talked to experts about Israeli security:

If we had security like the Israelis, our nation's aviation system would come to a near-standstill, and would be cost-prohibitive.

In any event, all that screening would not have stopped someone from merely entering the airport BEFORE the T.S.A. checkpoints. (I do like your idea about canines patrolling at the entry levels to the airport!)

If this individual never underwent psychological/psychiatric counseling, that would not have prevented this episode, even with different laws.

In the Lanza case, mom kept all those weapons; in this case, the family seems to be not the least bit culpable.

My understanding is the dad called the Pennsville police chief about his fears about what seemed to be a suicidal message to the younger brother; the police chief promptly notified L.A.P.D.; and L.A.P.D. officers went rather promptly to the residence.

Allan Loudell

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 10:38am
I don't see this 'marking' the Sallies community. In the mid-90's, another graduate, Anthony Lachette, was arrested in connection with the brutal murder along with Robert Jackson. He testified against Jackson, but for a while it wasn't sure who committed the murder. Certainly the Sallies community is much stronger than the actions of one lone individual.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 11:24am
Mr Loudell: How much does T.S.A. cost? I'm sure the Israeli model is more expensive...but I would rather pay more to fly and actually be safe, than have the T.S.A. which offers very little safety, but dramatically reduces our freedoms.

I seriously doubt T.S.A. will ever go away and know "we" won't use the Israeli security model...so maybe someone with critical thinking will at least add a lot more trained K-9 units. That would at least do something for added security in travel.

As this story continues to unfold, I would wager we will eventually learn about some mental issues this young man had...but were ignored.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 11:59am
I really fail to see why Sallies is so important in this story. The man graduated over 5 years ago. I was really amazed at Allen's commentary this morning comparing this to Kent State. Really? How about the young man's mother who suffered from M.S. and died at a very young age? Could that affect him? Sounds like somebody really wants to muddy the
well- deserved Sallies' reputation. By the way, has anyone every heard WDEL mention which other high schools other criminals have graduated from?

Allan Loudell
Mon, Nov 4, 2013 1:40pm
Newsms & Mr. Grey:

Let's respond to your points specifically.

Newsms: By definition, news coverage generally stresses that which is unusual. That's why a home invasion resulting in the murder of an elderly woman in Hockessin will inevitably become a much bigger story than a drug-related, fatal shooting in the streets of Wilmington.

So, yes, if someone from as august an institution as Salesianum ends up terrorizing an airport, the Salesianum angle becomes part of the headline or lead for that story. It is shocking. And indeed, the routine was altered at Salesianum this morning, with a prayerful interlude as students and faculty dealt with this tragedy. (I interviewed Salesianum's president about this on-the-air over the Noon hour.)

Sure, WDEL doesn't routinely broadcast the alma maters of "everyday" criminals (nor does such information become routinely available). But if a grad from a Delaware public school terrorized an airport, no question that link would figure prominently as well. You're correct... some folks have speculated about whether the death of this young man's mother was a "trigger"... or even whether she had had an unfortunate experience at the hands of T.S.A. officers.

Mr. Grey: I don't question T.S.A. is flawed. (Although part of the problem may be the salaries for security agents; you get what you pay for.)

Just what would you replace it with? Surely, you'd maintain the basic equipment, such as metal detectors. Would you eliminate the body scans of certain people?

But I'm always fascinated when T.S.A. critics point to Israel's air security model, because I would argue - in many respects - it's even MORE intrusive! (Maybe they dismiss that part because they figure only those of certain ethnicities would be subject to such intrusiveness. More on that later -- below.)

But, it's difficult to imagine adopting the Israeli system in the United States.

I quote from a December 21st, 2010 article in USA TODAY:

"There's no question the Israeli system has been a success in a country beset by terrorist threats and suicide bombers. But if you can count, and if you understand American values, it's easy to see why that system wouldn't translate to the United States.

To start with, Israel has one major international airport, Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv, which handles about 11 million passengers a year. The U.S.A. has 450 airports, through which 770 million people pass. Put another way, U.S. airports handle more passengers in a single week that Israel -- a New-Jersey-sized nation with few domestic flights - does in a year.

Moreover, in Israel, where screeners are highly trained and El Al pays for much of the security costs, the airline spent about $57 per passenger last year (2009), according to The WASHINGTON POST. And, in the United States, where the government picks up most of the tab? Less than $7 per passenger. We don't hear the Transportation Security Administration's critics calling for an eightfold increase in this year's $5.3 Billion air security budget.

Even if volume and cost weren't obstacles, Americans wouldn't put up with such Israeli practices as having to get to the airport as much as four hours before departure, being interrogated at length by airport screeners, or having their luggage confiscated. Everyone still has to pass through metal detectors..."

Later in that article:

"Israelis have been willing to trade both personal privacy and civil liberties for air security. But even after 9/11, many Americans have balked at that trade-off, as a vocal minority made clear in the recent uproar over full-body scanners and enhanced pat-downs. In 2003, a T.S.A. plan to tap into fliers' personal credit cards and other data, then assign them security-risk ratings, ignited such an outcry that it was scrapped..."

Pardon me, but I suspect some U.S. conservatives LOVE the Israeli model because it involves ethnic profiling and background checks which are anathema to U.S. civil libertarians / liberals & progressives. (Hence, onetime Clinton Administration Cabinet secretary Donna Shalala ended up detained for more than two hours of interrogation because of her Lebanese name!)

But such profiling would have missed the blue-eyed Philadelphia woman, "Jihad Jane", busted in March 2010 for alleged involvement in recruiting Americans for terrorist plots. It would've missed the white British citizen, Richard Reid, the famous would-be, shoe-bomber.

And it would miss Caucasian U.S. citizens with their own grievances... such as Paul Ciancia. (And that doesn't even address security BEFORE the T.S.A. screening zone.) Should we impose screenings - with metal detectors - at the ENTRANCES to airports? Could you imagine would-be airline passengers standing in the bitter cold - or in the mid-summer heat OUTSIDE?

But I repeat... I DO like your idea of the canines patrolling in the outside areas.

By the way, Mr. Grey, T.S.A.'s annual budget was $7.6 Billion for the last available year.

Allan Loudell

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Nov 4, 2013 1:46pm
Newsms makes some good points.

Kent State, the shootings happended there on campus, like the Virgina Tech shootings a few years ago. Sallies isn't involved at all.

Good point, she made that with any of the other criminals, no mention is ever made of where they went to high school [can't assume all graduated].

Now, from where I'm sitting a bigger issue is if the person's color is mentioned, especially if the criminal is still at-large. Really, police are looking for a male, about 6 feet tall, wearing a Phillies cap, Black sweatshirt and jeans. By simply saying a white, black, hispanic, asian male eliminates one thing the criminal can not easily change about his/her outward appearance, their color. The political correctness crap is just that, crap.

Just as the nonsense of profiling. If 99.99% of the Islamic terrorists are of Arab descent, be they Americans or from "Sandland" sure the cops should profile. Why would you target a pale-skinned, blond, blue-eyed Swede unless you had intell leading to that person?

In a gangland murder, involving the Mob, do you target Poles, or Israelies? No you target Italians. Sure, that's profiling, but until you have better info leading to someone else, it makes sense to start there.

If the criminal being sought is a fat guy, you sure aren't going to be stopping skinny men, so you are then profiling fat people. PC is such a poor way to run a nation, or try to catch criminals. IF a white guy does the crime, than say so, if a black women does the crime, say so.

Just because the majority of violent gun-related crimes are committed by young black males doesn't mean we should hide that fact. It is what it is.

On the other hand, it also doesn't mean we are to do what Zimmerman did either. Both are wrong. Now if, let's say the police were looking for a black male wearing a hoodie in that neighborhood, then sure the cops then should have stopped Travon to check him out, NOT Zimmermann, the real cops. That's profiling, but in those cases there's an actual reason for it.

Those wealthy blacks who were profiled in those swanky stores in NYC recently, they paid for the goods, with their own money or credit card, they didn't use a gun, THAT is racist profiling. Those folks were profiled in a racist manner.

It's the intent; that's key. Sure, some racist trying to hassle minorities is wrong and he/she should be prosecuted for such action, but to say all profiling, especially in police work, is wrong is just non-sense.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 1:59pm
News writers are normally instructed by the news director to make a story local. This was an ideal situation for our region. The alleged murderer was from Pennsville and attended a local CATHOLIC High School. For a local reporter, life cannot get any better than this when writing a local connection of a national story.

Due to the Friday morning storm, SEPTA trains to Philadelphia were messed up. So I stayed home reading and listening to the radio. Around 4pm, I decided to watch the local TV news. Imagine my surprise and disgust when the station started airing aerial shots of the home of the shooter's parents. The son was living in LA, not Pennsville. Yet there was the house. The anchor was even giving the complete street address! And letting us know the father ran a successful auto repair shop!

How irresponsible can reporters become? Now, we try to connect the shootings with his high school? And compare it with Kent State? You've got to be kidding! That was civilian soldiers killing innocent students. LAX is a wacko shooting government gropers. That is a big difference.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Nov 4, 2013 2:06pm
Mike from Delaware (and Jim H)---

Please see some of my earlier points about ethnic profiling (above).

Perhaps my analogy to Kent State was wrong-headed, because the shootings DID occur on that university campus. But I was merely suggesting that the institution, rightly or wrongly, will be connected to that unfortunate legacy. As you would say, 'It is what it is'.

I'm not a big fan of the intrusiveness of local TV news. I must remind you, however, that at 4 p.m. Friday, it wasn't completely clear if this young man had relocated permanently in L.A. Inevitably, you have the competitive factor - which trumps nearly everything else - in TV news. (A lesser concern for radio!) Now tell me, if you're interested in the story and are switching channels - One station is airing aerial shots, sustaining coverage of the story, and the other stations are not... where are YOU going to go?

Allan Loudell

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 2:38pm
Well Mr. Loudell,

If I had $7.6B budget I’m pretty sure I could come up with a better system than what we have with the unmanageable bureaucracy known as T.S.A.

First, I would use private security. Paid for by the airport and then passed onto the travelers in their ticket pricing.

Next, I would keep the metal detectors but rid the airports of the x-ray based machines and substitute them with the Israeli’s ultrasound machines. I would have NO objection to passing through an ultrasound and even pregnant women and children could pass through safely with a more thorough security “exam” when compared to the potentially harmful and less useful x-ray tech the U.S. wasted trillions of dollars purchasing. Another bonus to the ultrasound machines is they would eliminate the chaos that currently exists when agents have to determine who must go through. And, with that barrier removed… there will be no further “pat-downs/groping” by T.S.A. agents.

I would increase the use of K-9s as useful detection tools and very useful weapons if needed…as we both agree.

And, for profiling, I do not think that racial profiling is the answer…all profiling is needed. Trained people or wonderful technology can both be employed to watch for people acting “guilty”. This will not catch everyone but it will also not target old white grandmothers…unless they act in a suspicious manner.

My final suggestion would be for the private sector security to hire ex-military and ex-cops to fill the roles of security. Give them extremely thorough background checks and (since it would be private sector) fire them if they have “issues” improperly doing their jobs.

And, since I transferred the $7.6 billion dollar burden from taxpayers and to airports/airlines...I have just rid the taxpayers of the U.S. of the tax burden of $7.6 billion dollars and created a safer air/train/bus travel…

I know it wouldn’t truly be $7.6 billion saved, and yes ticket pricing would probably go up, but (1) we would actually be safer in our travels (2) waiting lines should move more quickly without x-ray machines (3) quite a bit of tax dollars would be saved and (4) our incoming/unemployed service men/women would have the opportunity to use the skills they learned in their service to our country.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 2:41pm
btw, the ultrasound machines used by Israel are made in the U.S.A.

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Nov 4, 2013 3:36pm
Allan: I understand your point about the local TV news, but I truly rarely watch local TV news ever. The only TV news I watch is the PBS Newshour or the CBS Evening News, for local news, I listen to WDEL or read it on WDEL.com.

I'm not interested in seeing the latest house fire in the Kennsington section or the latest shooting in the Germantown section of Philly, we've got enough of our own bad news here.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013 3:42pm
Actually, the Sallies angle seems to have bumped the Tower Hill scandal off to the back pages....

From a local angle, it would seem that having the head of a prestigious private school arrested on confirmed possession of child pornography, particularly focused upon the dominating gratification of forcing little boys to perform the most demeaning of hideous acts while bound, would be more noteworthy, than a student who arbitrarily graduated 5 years ago who no one can remember...

I wonder how many current Tower Hill students are keeping silent right now? Afraid of being outed from when they too were subjected to the same acts as portrayed in the visuals confiscated by the police on his computer in a file listed under his name?

Please, let us keep our focus on what is really important here.

Tue, Nov 5, 2013 4:29am
Something I don't see mentioned here is a previous shooting at LAX back in 2002 at an El-Al counter, which killed two people and injured several others before a security officer killed the gunman. So much for Israeli security.

This indicates to me that maybe they need to relocate where security begins - at the door of the terminal or even have a security gate where cars are screened before ever entering the premises. As it is, anybody can drive to an airport, park their car in a garage, and enter any terminal carrying anything they so desire. There's no legitimate reason to enter an airport unless you're either traveling or providing transportation for a traveler. Presently, the only thing that gets screened are ticketed passengers. All others are free to roam the terminal.

Believe me, I'm one of the strongest opponents of a police state you'll ever encounter, but really if you screen out those who have no business there in the first place, that should eliminate the need for passenger screening inside the terminal. A case in point is the federal courthouse in Wilmington, where they relocated security to the front door after the Matusziewicz massacre.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Nov 5, 2013 8:08am
Mrpizza: We don't know, but maybe El-AL was limited by the U.S. as to what security measures El-Al was allowed to use in a U.S. airport, which might make a difference.

Probably the reason security is done inside the airport terminal is they don't want folks standing outside in the weather, as Allan pointed out above. However, you do make a valid point. I like the idea of K-9s at the entrances/exits of the airports.

Add your comment:
Attention: In an attempt to promote a level of civility and personal responsibility in blog discussions, we now require you to be a member of the WDEL Members Only Group in order to post a comment. Your Members Only Group username and password are required to process your post.

You can join the WDEL Members Only Group for free by clicking here.
If you are already a member but have forgotten your username or password, please click here.

Please register your post with your WDEL Members Only Group username and password below.

Copyright © 2014, Delmarva Broadcasting Company. All Rights Reserved.   Terms of Use.
WDEL Statement of Equal Employment Opportunity and Outreach