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Accused LAX gunman dropped off by friend

LOS ANGELES -- The 23-year-old gunman charged in a deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport told authorities at the scene he acted alone and had been dropped off at the airport by a friend, a law enforcement official who has been briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press exclusively Sunday.

Authorities do not believe the friend knew Paul Ciancia, the man charged in the attack, planned to open fire inside LAX's Terminal 3 just moments later, killing one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding four others, including two more TSA workers, said the official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and requested anonymity.

Ciancia was dropped off in a black Hyundai and was not a ticketed passenger. He was able to respond to investigators' questions at the scene Friday, the source said.

Ciancia, an unemployed motorcycle mechanic who grew up in the small, working-class town of Pennsville, N.J., was shot four times and was under a 24-hour armed guard at the hospital, where he remained heavily sedated, the law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Lucky they had parachutes

MIKE Robinson was at 12,000 feet, just seconds away from his last jump of the day, when a second plane carrying other skydivers struck the aircraft he was in, sending them all tumbling toward the ground.

None of the nine skydivers or two pilots sustained serious injury when the two planes collided in midair Saturday evening in far northwest Wisconsin near Lake Superior. Authorities still didn't know Sunday what caused the accident.

Robinson, an instructor and safety adviser for Skydive Superior, said he and three other skydivers were in a lead plane Saturday, and all four had climbed out onto the step to jump. The plane behind theirs had five skydivers on board, three ready to jump and two still inside the plane.

"We were just a few seconds away from having a normal skydive when the trail plane came over the top of the lead aircraft and came down on top of it," he said. "It turned into a big flash fireball and the wing separated."

"All of us knew we had a crash... The wing over our head was gone, so we just left," he added.

"Looking around, we're seeing the wing that came off. We're seeing it's on fire and there are just parts of the airplane floating in the air with us," he said. "We were falling faster than those parts... So the concern was we get away from the crash area."

Fall from 'Wheel of Death'

LAS VEGAS -- A Cirque du Soleil performer remains hospitalized after a fall during a show Friday night at the Aria resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

The performance company issued a statement Saturday saying the male artist was appearing in the "Wheel of Death" act during the 7 p.m. performance of Zarkana when he slipped and fell off the wheel.

The act features two people who perform high-risk feats atop and inside a pair of spinning wheels rotating high above the stage, including rope skipping and jumps.

The company says the show was halted and the performer was taken to University Medical Center, where he was in stable condition and expected to be discharged in the next few days.

The accident occurred four months after a Cirque du Soleil acrobat died in a fall during a performance of the show Ka at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

No clemency for Snowden

WASHINGTON -- The White House and the leaders of the intelligence committees in Congress are rejecting National Security Agency-contractor Edward Snowden's plea for clemency.

"Mr. Snowden violated U.S. law," White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday about the former systems-analyst-turned-fugitive who has temporary asylum in Russia.

"He should return to the U.S. and face justice," Pfeiffer said, adding when pressed that no offers for clemency were being discussed.

Snowden made the plea in a letter given to a German politician and released Friday. In his one-page typed letter, he asks for clemency for charges over allegedly leaking classified information about the NSA to the news media. "Speaking the truth is not a crime," Snowden wrote.

Coderre's the mayor

MONTREAL -- A scandal-plagued city seeking to escape an era of corruption has now been entrusted to Denis Coderre, the back-slapping populist who was elected Sunday as mayor of Montreal.

Coderre's knack for grabbing attention has followed him from the federal arena, where he was a perennial purveyor of high-publicity causes and built a huge online following while live-tweeting Montreal Canadiens games.

The former minister and party organizer for the federal Liberals held a five-percentage-point edge in his first attempt at municipal politics.

Polls all year showed Coderre ahead of his lesser-known rivals but the final result ended up tighter than expected, as he took just under 32 per cent of the ballots cast on a day when a clear majority of eligible voters chose to stay home.

A persistent question of the campaign was whether Coderre was really the best-suited candidate to clean up Canada's second-biggest city.

The last two mayors have resigned in scandal, the most recent one was arrested on fraud charges, and a disheartening drip of kickback and bid-rigging allegations have corroded locals' trust in city hall. Coderre's supporters insist he's the right guy for the job.

"He has the political experience," said Meme Noel, who came to cheer on Coderre with a friend, Sherly Severe.

"He's never been involved in a scandal in all these years, so I don't see why he would get into trouble as mayor."

-- from the wire services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2013 A13

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