FBI: Gunman Went to LAX to Kill

ByABC News

L O S   A N G E L E S, July 5, 2002 -- The Egyptian immigrant who killed two people and wounded three others in a shooting at an Israeli airline counter at Los Angeles International Airport came to LAX intending to kill people, investigators believe.

However, authorities still have not determined why the man, identified as Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, 41, brought two pistols, extra ammunition and a knife to the airport, and refused to categorize the shooting as an act of terrorism.

""It appears he went there with the intention of killing people. Why he did that is what we are still trying to determine," said FBI Special Agent Richard Garcia.

Though the gunman, who was overpowered and shot dead by security guards, was of Middle Eastern origin and the incident occurred at an El Al counter, authorities continued to caution against assuming the shooting was related to terrorism.

Garcia said there was still no indication that the shooting was connected with terrorism, and said Hadayet was not on any FBI or Federal Aviation Administration watch list. The man had no criminal history, either, the agent said.

Another possible scenario that is being considered is that Hadayet was despondent, possibly over family problems, Garcia said. Hadayet's wife returned to Egypt recently, but investigators are not yet sure why, he said.

Police had been called to Hadayet's home to respond to domestic disputes, Garcia said, but he could not give any details about those incidents.

Investigators are waiting for a warrant to allow them to examine the contents of Hadayet's computer, and are trying to discover whether he has other relatives or friends living in the United States who could shed some light on the man's character.

"There is no evidence, no indication at this time that this is terrorists," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said earlier today.

Hadayet immigrated to the United States from Egypt 10 years ago and lived in an Irvine, Calif., townhouse complex, from which he operated a limousine service.

Federal and local authorities spent the night combing through his home, searching for clues to a motive for the Fourth of July shooting. They came away with several boxes of material, Hadayet's computer and impounded two cars.

"At this point we don't [know his motive]," Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief David Gascom said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "The FBI is looking to pore through his background and discover whatever we can to make an assessment of the motive."

Gascom said it was not yet known whether Hadayet belonged to any political groups.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said shortly after the shooting that it was clearly a terrorist act, and a government official said today that the identity of the gunman only strengthened that belief.

"We said it last night and I'm saying it now — we are assuming it was a terrorist attack until it is proven otherwise,"Israeli Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Radio. "As far as we're concerned this is not an isolated incident."

Investigators are questioning friends and relatives of the man, trying to get a clearer picture of who Hadayet was and what could have led him to start shooting.

‘I Saw People Falling …’

The incident began at around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, when, according to the FBI, Hadayet approached the El Al ticket counter in the airport's crowded international terminal, pulled out a gun and started firing.

"We are not ruling out hate crime. We are not ruling out terrorism completely and we are not ruling out other types of issues that it may be a random act of violence," Garcia said. "That all goes to the motive."

Two people were killed in the shooting — ticket agent Victoria Hen, 25, and Yaakov Aminov, 46, a jeweler and father of eight who was dropping off a friend — before an El Al security guard shot and killed Hadayet.

Before he was killed, two El Al security guards and a private citizen subdued the gunman as about a dozen shots began flying through the crowded terminal.

"The security guard came right away and jumped on top of him," one witness told ABCNEWS. "I saw people falling. They fell right behind me and I just ran like a madwoman."

The two guards and a woman were wounded; another woman suffered heart problems.

Some 6,000 people were evacuated from the terminal, which was closed for more than 4 ½ hours. Twenty international flights were put on hold as the FBI and police investigated.

‘Extra Ammunition, Ready to Go’

Hadayet's neighbors in Irvine told The Associated Press he was generally a quiet man, but once became infuriated when an upstairs neighbor hung large American and Marine Corps flags from a balcony above his front door after Sept. 11. Both flags were still there Thursday night, according to the news agency.

"He complained about it to the apartment manager. He thought it was being thrown in his face," Steve Thompson, 39, told The Associated Press.

The FBI said that Hadayet had two California driver's licenses, with two different birth dates — April 7, 1961, and July 4, 1961. One of those licenses listed his last name as Ali.

FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said that Hadayet was heavily armed during the attack.

He said the gunman walked into the terminal with a .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9 mm Glock handgun and a six-inch hunting knife.

"He had extra ammunition and magazines ready to go," McLaughlin said.

Wife Questioned in Cairo

Egyptian authorities questioned Hadayet's wife, Hala Mohamed Sadek, and his sister in Cairo. After Sadek was released today, she was unable to get back into her home because security guards outside the house would not let her in.

Hadayat's uncle, Hassan Mustafa Mahfouz, told ABCNEWS he tried to call Hadayet on Thursday because it was his birthday, but there was no answer. However, Mahfouz said Hadayet called his father Thursday.

"Before the accident he called his father on the phone and told him that 'before you call me to wish me happy birthday I called you,' " Mahfouz said. "He also called his mother and his wife, who has been in Egypt for a month."

The FBI is coordinating with the Egyptian government with a view to interviewing Hadayet's family members.

Hadayet's father, a retired brigadier of the Egyptian air force who has been paralyzed for 10 years, has been questioned twice by Egyptian authorities.

Mahfouz said he was confused by the reports he had been hearing about the shooting, and still wasn't sure whether to believe them or not.

"I don't know if it is true or not. I don't know if he is dead or not," Mahfouz said. "People say he has yellow hair in a kind of a ponytail but his hair is like mine and … his picture on the television is not an exact likeness of him. I was surprised and I was upset by this news, I felt that he he could not do that."

Before coming to the United States, Hadayet worked as an accountant for MISR Iran Bank in Cairo. After moving to Southern California, he worked for Bank of America in Los Angeles.

ABCNEWS' Judy Muller in Los Angeles and Hoda Abdel-Hamid in Cairo contributed to this report.

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