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SHOOTING AT LAX

Gunman Kills Two at LAX

FBI Identifies Shooter as Egyptian-Born Resident of Irvine

July 05, 2002|KENNETH R. WEISS and MITCHELL LANDSBERG | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Despite stepped-up security at Los Angeles International Airport, an Egyptian-born man pulled a gun and opened fire Thursday at a busy ticket counter of El Al Israel Airlines, killing two people and wounding several others before an airline guard shot him dead, authorities said. The attack delayed thousands of passengers and closed the airport's international terminal for hours.

Although Israeli officials said they believed the shooting was an act of terrorism, U.S. authorities said it appeared to be an isolated incident.

FBI officials said the shooter had two driver's licenses, one identifying him as Hesham Mohamed Hadayet and the other as Hesham Mohamed Ali. He was 41, entered the country in 1992 and was a resident of Irvine. One of the licenses listed his birth date as the Fourth of July.

When police arrived at the man's apartment, they found a note on the door saying, "Read the Koran."

Passengers and others who witnessed the attack said the gunman appeared to grow agitated while talking to a ticket agent at the El Al counter. He pulled out a gun and shot her, then began firing at people in line, witnesses said.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 06, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 101 words Type of Material: Correction
Shooting victim--Victoria Hen's name was misspelled in a story about the fatal shootings at Los Angeles International Airport in Friday's Section A. Her age was also incorrect. She was 25.

"There were people laying all over the floor. There was blood," said Arie Golan, who joined a security guard in wrestling the man to the floor.

Witnesses said the security guard shot the man once at close range after the attacker had been disarmed and was being held on the floor.

The shooting occurred at an airport that has been on high alert for a terrorist attack, on a holiday when the entire nation was warned to be on the lookout, and at the counter of an airline generally considered to have the best security in the world.

The gunfire, which began just before 11:30 a.m., forced the evacuation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, delaying 35 outbound flights and 10,500 passengers. Delays stretched up to eight hours. The south section of the terminal reopened at 4:30 p.m., but the rest remained closed while the FBI completed its investigation of the shooting scene.

Rethinking Security

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, who unveiled a $9.6-billion reconstruction plan for LAX this week, said he plans to reassess airport security. He said security now focuses on preventing passengers from getting on a plane with weapons, not screening people at ticket counters.

"Our airport security is much like airport security around the world," Hahn said. "The perimeter you establish for protection is just outside the area where the airplanes are and the gates. Parking lots, lobbies, ticketing areas are not past those security points--they're before them."

An FBI official in Los Angeles, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the gunman carried no identification but investigators were able to identify him through other means. Authorities also said they had found Hadayet's vehicle in an airport parking garage.

The dead bystanders were Israeli emigre Jacob Aminov, 46, a diamond importer who lived in North Hollywood, and a woman the Israeli Consulate identified as Vicky Chen, a 20-year-old Israeli working for a company under contract with El Al.

Among those injured, Sarah Phillips, 61, a Canadian, was shot in the foot and reported in stable condition at Centinela Medical Center, police said. The others were treated for heart palpitations and other stress-related ailments and released, authorities said.

Aminov was taken to King-Drew Medical Center, where grief-stricken family members gathered. They described Aminov as a hard-working, devoutly religious man, and said he was seeing friends off at the airport when he was shot. He was hit at least once in the chest, doctors said.

Aminov was in cardiac arrest when he arrived by ambulance at the hospital shortly after noon, said Dr. Jean-Claude Henry. Doctors worked on him for nearly an hour before declaring him dead, Henry said.

Aminov's wife, who is pregnant with the couple's sixth child, was at the hospital when she learned her husband could not be saved. By coincidence, Aminov was a friend and neighbor of Golan, the man who helped subdue the shooter. Golan, 54, said he spotted Aminov in the check-in line, walked over to say hello, and then was on his way outside to smoke a cigarette when the shooting began.

Dozens of people watched the attack unfold as they stood in line at El Al and surrounding airline counters in the crowded terminal.

Guillermo Fergoza was with his wife, Yolanda, about 25 feet away when he noticed a man talking to an agent at the El Al counter. "They started arguing at the counter," said Fergoza, who was at the airport to put his son on a flight. "He stepped back and pulled the gun out of his waistband. A lot of people started falling to the floor."

Two brothers, Paul and David Parkus, were standing in line at a nearby Singapore Airlines ticket counter.

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