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Accused Los Angeles airport gunman to enter plea

Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the FBI. REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the FBI. REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The man accused of opening fire at Los Angeles International Airport and killing a federal security screener and wounding three other people is expected to plead not guilty on Thursday to charges of murder and attempted murder of federal officers.

This is the second court appearance for Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, in connection with the November 1 shooting spree.

On December 4, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bristow ordered Ciancia held without bond after finding he posed a danger to the community and represented a potential flight risk. Ciancia did not enter a plea at that hearing.

Three charges in the 11-count indictment against Ciancia carry a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty; federal prosecutors have not decided yet whether to seek capital punishment if Ciancia is convicted.

In addition to a single count of murder and two counts of attempted murder of federal officers, Ciancia was indicted on four counts of committing an act of violence at an international airport and four counts of firearms offenses.

Ciancia is accused of walking into Terminal 3 at the airport, removing a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and opening fire on an unarmed Transportation Security Administration officer standing at the entrance to a security checkpoint.

The TSA agent, Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was the first agent slain in the line of duty since the agency was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Authorities say Ciancia then stalked past metal detectors through the checkpoint and into the airplane-boarding area, shooting and wounding two other TSA employees and a traveler before he was critically wounded in a gunfight with police at one of the world's busiest airports.

Ciancia's hearing will be held at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, located east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County, because Ciancia is being treated for his injuries there.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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