Calabasas High School teacher Brian Ludmer was "upbeat" and in high spirits on Sunday as he recovers from a gunshot wound to the leg suffered in Friday's shooting spree at LAX that killed a Transportation Security Administration agent and wounded several others, the school superintendent said.
Ludmer, 29, who teaches a theater class called stagecraft and also serves as a technical director for the Performing Arts Education Center at Calabasas High School, remains in "fair condition" at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He faces at least one more surgery for a fractured leg along with extensive physical therapy, according to a statement issued Sunday by the hospital on behalf of Ludmer and his family.
Ludmer underwent his first surgery Friday after the shooting at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport, Las Virgenes Unified School District Superintendent Dan Stepenosky said. Ludmer had planned to travel to the Boston area for a friend's wedding when a gunman's shooting rampage thwarted the teacher's plans, the superintendent said.
"He is doing terrific. His spirits are up. He's talkative, comfortable -- as comfortable as can be," Stepenosky said minutes after visiting with Ludmer, who once lived in the Chicago area, on Sunday. "He's still in some pain. He's got a long road ahead. ... We're all behind him, pulling for him, sending prayers and positive energy his way."
Stepenosky said the bullet went into the muscle of Ludmer's right calf, shattering his tibia and fibula, and then grazed his left leg. Suspect Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, has been charged with murder of a federal officer and shooting in an international airport, offenses that could possibly lead to the death penalty. FBI officials said that Ciancia specifically targeted TSA agents.
A steady stream of visitors, including several from the school district and a couple of plainclothes FBI agents, visited Ludmer on Sunday, Stepenosky said. Ludmer's parents flew in to be with their son and two of his four siblings were also in town, with more relatives expected to arrive.
"I feel a lot better after seeing him; he was in very good spirits ... and really alert and seemed to want visitors and wanted to talk to people," said Calabasas High School music director Josh Barroll, who described Ludmer as a great person and a talented technical director who maintains a calming presence amid the occasional chaos of school productions.
Ludmer's family has declined multiple requests to be interviewed, asking that "their privacy be respected," according to the hospital statement.
Stepenosky, the superintendent, said Ludmer told him that he believes he saw the gunman out of the corner of his eye. Ludmer said the shooting started on the lower level, while he was in the upper level of the terminal. Everyone started running and Ludmer found himself next to two TSA agents when he was shot, Stepenosky said.
"Maybe that's why he got shot at -- because he was with two TSA agents," Stepenosky said. "I don't know. He doesn't know either."
Ludmer said he pulled himself into a newsstand area inside the airport and then into a back closet for protection. There, Ludmer, who had been trained as an Eagle Scout, grabbed a sweatshirt and tied his bleeding leg with the makeshift tourniquet, Stepenosky said.
"It was bleeding a lot, even with the trail of blood coming from him, no one came to him," Stepenosky said. "He had to wait until he heard police officers outside. He said (it was) 10 minutes, which probably felt like 10 years."
When Ludmer heard the voices of police officers, he cracked open the closet door and called out to them because he was afraid he might pass out and no one would find him, Stepenosky said. Two police officers brought him out into the terminal and stayed with him there because the area still was not secure. Finally, one of the officers grabbed a wheelchair and pushed him out of the building and into an ambulance, the superintendent said.
"Every minute is precious time," Stepenosky said. "(Ludmer) remembers the police officer who put him on the wheelchair and got him out. He remembers the name so the mom is going to send the police officer a thank-you note for just taking the initiative to get him out of there."
Stepenosky said the district is working with the family to organize a fundraising campaign to help Ludmer with expenses related to his injuries.
William Publico, who identified himself as a friend of Ludmer, called him "a great guy" who has significant support from friends and family.
"He's very considerate, he's always worried about other people, he's really smart," said Publico, a North Hollywood resident. "And as far as the circle of friends and family around him, they're a close-knit group. They're all kind of circling the wagons. Everybody is pulling for him and being there for him."
Staff writer Kelly Goff contributed to this report. ___