Paul Ciancia, the owner of an auto-body shop in southern New Jersey and father of the 23-year-old suspect of the same name, called Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings in the early afternoon to tell him one of his children had received a text message from the younger Ciancia "in reference to him taking his own life," the chief told The Associated Press.
Across the country and around the same time Friday, authorities say, his son was shooting his way past a security checkpoint at the airport with a semi-automatic rifle, killing a security officer and wounding other people. Ciancia was injured in a shootout and taken into custody, police said.
A motive wasn't clear, but Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a handwritten note that said he "wanted to kill TSA and pigs," according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Cummings said his police department in Pennsville, N.J., had never had dealings with the younger Ciancia, and neighbors in the working-class city of about 14,000 across the broad Delaware River from Wilmington, Del., didn't have a clue anything might have been wrong.
"He was never weird toward me. He never gave me any weird vibes," said 17-year-old neighbor Josh Pagan, adding that in the 10 years he has lived across the street from the Ciancia family, "they've been nothing but nice to us."
The suspect's father has been involved with Pennsville's Fraternal Order of Police, said Pagan's father, Orlando, a lieutenant in nearby Penns Grove. He didn't provide details on his involvement.
The suspect graduated in 2008 from Salesianum School, an all-boys Roman Catholic school in Wilmington, the school said.
Outside the father's home Friday in Pennsville, a police cruiser blocked the long driveway. Phone calls weren't answered, and efforts to reach siblings were also unsuccessful.
After getting the call from Ciancia's father, Chief Cummings reached out to Los Angeles police, who sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment, Cummings said. It wasn't clear whether the police visited before, during or after the airport shooting.
"Basically, there were two roommates there," Cummings said. "They said, 'We saw him yesterday and he was fine.'" He told Ciancia's father that because of his son's age, he couldn't take a missing persons report.
Rubinkam reported from Pennsylvania. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles, Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J., and AP news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.