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LAX Shooter Hospitalized, Charged With Murder

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 04, 2013 3:21 PM

LAX shooting suspect Paul Ciancia was charged with murder Saturday, with federal prosecutors leaving open the possibility of imposing the death penalty.

Ciancia, 23, remained heavily sedated in a hospital over the weekend after being shot in the head by airport police. Friday's LAX shooting ended with one TSA agent killed and several others wounded.

Prosecutors are charging Ciancia with the "murder of a federal officer and commission of violence at an international airport," ABC News reports.

Charged While Unresponsive

Ciancia is charged with shooting TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez at point-blank range with a Smith & Wesson assault rifle, ABC News reports. Ciancia allegedly returned to deliver a fatal shot to the wounded Hernandez after Ciancia noticed he was still moving. Hernandez is the first TSA agent to be killed in the line of duty.

For these alleged actions, and the shooting and wounding of "at least two other uniformed on-duty TSA employees and one civilian passenger," the criminal complaint filed Saturday saddled the currently unresponsive Ciancia with two capital charges.

This process isn't too far removed from what happened to Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was charged in April with a litany of terrorism and murder charges but was still hospitalized and unable to speak.

Now that charges have been filed, the federal court will likely wait for an update on Ciancia's condition before scheduling a hearing for arraignment.

If Ciancia Survives, Death Penalty Possible

Unlike many states that have outlawed capital punishment, the federal government still imposes the death penalty if a defendant is found guilty of certain egregious crimes.

One of these federal crimes is the murder of a federal employee while on duty, like TSA Agent Hernandez. If found guilty for this crime, Ciancia will face either life in prison or the death penalty.

That sort of discussion may be slightly premature, since it is unclear when and if Ciancia will even make his first court appearance. It's also unclear whether the sedated suspect has obtained a defense attorney, Bloomberg reports.

Anyone with more information about either Ciancia or the LAX shooting is asked to contact the FBI online or by calling (888) 226-8443.

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