FBI Identifies L.A. Airport Gunman

Police sharpshooters station themselves on the roof of a parking garage across from the international terminal with an El Al airplane at left, July 4, 2002 at Los Angeles International Airport. A gunman shot and killed two people when he opened fire on Thursday at the El Al Israeli airline desk at Los Angeles International airport. REUTERS

Authorities say the gunman who opened fire at the Israeli national airline's ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport on the Fourth of July was an Egyptian immigrant who lived just south of Los Angeles and worked as a limousine driver.

Authorities say Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, 41, of Irvine, Calif., was armed with guns and a knife, shot and killed two people and wounded four others at the El Al airline ticket counter before being shot to death himself by an El Al security guard.

Authorities say there is no evidence he knew any of his victims.

CBS Radio News Correspondent Steve Futterman reports the identity of the gunman was released early Friday as FBI agents searched his home in Irvine, which they said had a sign on the door saying: "Read the Koran."

The FBI says Hadayet, who also goes by the last name Ali, came to the United States from Egypt ten years ago and is a legal resident.

FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin says the motive remains unclear and there is no evidence anyone else was involved.

"We've never said it's not terrorism," said McLaughlin. "We can't rule that out, but there's nothing to indicate terrorism at this point."

The FBI spokesman suggested that the attack might fall into the category of a hate crime and said the man was heavily armed.

"He had extra ammunition and magazines ready to go," said McLaughlin. "If they hadn't taken him down many more lives could have been lost."

An official at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles said Thursday that the date and target of the attack are no coincidence.

"We think they chose El Al for a reason," Meraz Sharhar told CBS News. "We think they chose the Fourth of July for a reason, but we're still trying to figure out the details."

In Jerusalem, Israel's Transport Minister Efraim Sneh said the attack appears to be the work of ''terrorists.''

"Organizations, primarily Islamic extremist organizations, are planning to hit Israeli targets outside (Israel). And an airport is a preferred target," Sneh told Israel's Army Radio in an interview Thursday. "We believe we are talking about a terrorist attack."

Friday, an El Al official reported another incident, but there is no indication at this time whether it is connected in any way to the attack in Los Angeles or something else. CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger says the official said that a missile exploded at a distance from an El Al plane flying Thursday night on a flight from Tel Aviv to Moscow. No other details - including the exact time and location of the incident were given - but the official says there was no damage and no one was injured.

In Irvine, Calif., late Thursday and early Friday, police searching Hadayet's neighborhood in suburban Orange County were unable to find his wife and two children. Irvine police Lt. Sam Allevato says neighbors told police the woman and children are in Egypt. A car at the apartment was searched.

Earlier, police searched the car Hadayet is believed to have used to drive to the airport - found late Thursday night in an airport parking garage - where the bomb squad was called as a precaution because the car's contents were unknown.

An evacuation was also ordered. Police said later that neither explosives nor anything else unusual was found in the black Mercedes.

In Irvine, Allevato declined to say what police saw in the apartment, one of three units in the small building.

Ron Iden, assistant director of the Los Angeles FBI office, says the gunman walked into the airport terminal Thursday morning with a .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9 mm handgun and a six-inch knife, but carrying no identification.

Four other people were injured, including two El Al security guards.

Thousands were evacuated from the international terminal, although the Federal Aviation Administration said domestic arrivals and departures continued to operate normally, and the international terminal reopened after 9 p.m.

The shootout happened with security on high alert around the country for a possible terrorist attack on Independence Day. It sent passengers ducking behind counters and hiding in airport offices. The ticket counter was about 100 yards from the nearest security checkpoint.

One eyewitness, Dr. David Parkus, says he heard five or six shots in quick succession, and turned from the Singapore Airlines counter to see the gunman wrestling with an El Al security guard. A second guard then charged and shot the gunman, Parkus said. As the gunman collapsed, Parkus said he saw a long hunting knife fall to the floor.

One guard was hit on the forehead with the butt of the gun and cut on the right arm, and the second guard was cut on the lower back, stabbed on the left thigh, and had a superficial gunshot wound to his right thigh, said Parkus, a trauma surgeon from Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas.

Parkus said he helped hold the gunman as he died, then performed CPR on two victims.

One of the victims was Yaakov Aminov, 46. He died of gunshot wounds less than an hour after arriving at Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center, said his brother-in-law, Mark Ezerzer.

The FBI said the gunman also fatally shot a 20-year-old woman who was a ticket agent at the El Al counter. El Al said she was an employee of a company that provides ground services for the airline.

A 61-year-old woman was shot in the ankle, a 40-year-old man was knifed, a man in his 20s was treated for injuries from a pistol whipping, and a 63-year-old woman was treated for chest pains, said Los Angeles police spokesman Alex Baez.

Aminov has eight children, and his second wife is pregnant with their sixth child together, Ezerzer said at the family's North Hollywood home, where relatives gathered Thursday night. An Orthodox Jew, Aminov owned a jewelry shop.

"It's a big tragedy," said brother-in-law Mike Moshe. "On Friday night dinners, it was like a king's house. There was food everywhere."

Aminov had taken his friend, Michael Shabtay, to the airport. After being caught in the spray of gunfire, Aminov collapsed in Shabtay's arms, Ezerzer said.

El Al had one flight scheduled out of Los Angeles Thursday, Flight 106 to Toronto and Tel Aviv, said David Douek, a spokesman for the Israeli consulate here. It was scheduled to depart at 4:10 p.m. In Israel early Friday, El Al said about 10 passengers were checking in for the flight when the attack began and about 80 others already had passed through the area.

The governor praised the airline's response, saying security agents acted quickly and prevented a greater loss of life.

Expressing outrage and sadness, Gov. Gray Davis said, "That it happened on the day on which we honor what America stands for - liberty, security and diversity - makes this particularly more tragic."

"My heart, as well of those of all Californians, aches for the victims of this shooting and their families," he said.

Witness Hakin Hasidh, 43, of Dusseldorf, Germany, said he was standing in the line next to the El Al counter. After hearing two shots, he turned and saw the gunman fire at passengers in line.

"The first couple of shots, everybody just stood there, frozen like I was," Hasidh said. "It's really hard to tell whether he was aiming at the counter, at people behind the counter or at people in line."

Five hours after the shooting, most of the international terminal was reopened. Thirty-five flights were delayed, for as long as eight hours, affecting 10,500 passengers, said airport spokesman Paul Heney. Some 900,000 people had been expected to pass through the airport over the holiday weekend from Wednesday through Sunday.

Greg Warren, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the agency will review security procedures to see if something more needs to be done.

While current airport security doesn't screen people approaching ticket counters, a $9.6 billion redesign proposal for LAX announced just this week would require everyone coming to the airport to park away from the terminals and go through screening before boarding shuttles.

El Al, based in Israel, is known as one of the most security-conscious airlines in the world.

Last year, an Algerian who trained in terrorist camps financed by Osama bin Laden was convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International at the height of the millennium holiday travel period. Ahmed Ressam had been arrested in Washington state on Dec. 14, 1999, while entering the country from Canada in a car with a trunk full of explosives.

  • Jaime Holguin

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