PENNSVILLE, N.J. (MCT) - Paul Ciancia called an old friend, the town's police chief, worried after his son, who was living in Los Angeles, sent a foreboding text message to his younger brother.
The message from his son, also named, Paul, made the family feel "that he was going to do harm to himself," the chief, Allen Cummings, said in an interview Friday recounting the story.
Cummings went over to the Ciancia house and asked the Los Angeles Police Department to check on the younger Ciancia. He'd been been living in Los Angeles for more than a year. But he wasn't home when police arrived.
By then, a lone gunman had killed a TSA officer and injured two other people Friday at Los Angeles International Airport. But the police hadn't released the shooter's name. Neither his father nor Cummings believed they knew the shooter.
Hours later, Cummings and neighbors were stunned to know that 23-year-old Paul Ciancia was named as the shooter.
"We never put two and two together," said Cummings, who learned of the news through a phone call from The Associated Press.
Around that time, the elder Ciancia called Cummings. "He said he saw (Paul) being named on TV as a suspect," Cummings said. "He was very emotionally upset."
He comes from a "super super nice family," said Orlando Pagan, 45, who has lived across the street from the Ciancia family for the past 10 years. "There were never any signs. ... I'm shocked."
Pagan said the suspect's mother, Susan, died of cancer a couple years go. He said his father, Paul, has an auto-repair shop in Pennsville, and is an associate member of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 6 in town.
Cummings told the AP that Ciancia's father called him early Friday afternoon saying another of his children had received a text message from the suspect "in reference to him taking his own life."
Cummings said the elder Ciancia asked him for help in locating his son. The chief said he then contacted Los Angeles police.
Cummings, who was at the Ciancia home Friday night, declined to answer questions about his role.
"Everybody is fine up there," the police chief said.
Cummings, who said he knows Ciancia's father well, called the family "good people."
AP reported that Ciancia graduated in 2008 from Salesianum School, an all-boys Roman Catholic school in Wilmington, Del. Earlier, neighbors had said Ciancia went to Pennsville High School.
"When he came home, he waved to my family," said Pagan, the neighbor.
Pagan's son, Josh, 17, said Paul Ciancia worked in the car-repair shop after school.
"You wouldn't think someone like that would come out of a family like that," said Josh Pagan. "It would make more sense to me" if authorities had accused the wrong person.
Pagan said Paul Ciancia also has a younger brother, Anthony, 21.
Another neighbor, Gary Hankins, said residents in their community are not close - literally. The houses are at the end of long driveways and are separated by wooded areas.
"The community is not very tight-knit. The houses are hundreds of feet off the road," he said.
"I cannot fathom that happening. It's hard to comprehend someone in this small quiet neighborhood - it sends chills up your spine," Hankins said. "You feel so bad for the family, and the families that were affected."
Hankins said the elder Paul Ciancia has been a businessman in the area for 20 to 25 years. "The father always took care of people" at the auto-body shop in town, he said.
Hankins said he didn't know the younger Ciancia was living in California. "The family has always been very nice to us," he said.
Friday night, police blocked the entrance to the Ciancia house.
(c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by MCT Information Services