On July 4, 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41-year old Egyptian national (photo right), opened fire at the El-Al check-in counter of LAX’s Tom Bradley international airport terminal, killing two people and wounding four others. The media played down the fact that this was another Muslim terrorist attack so soon after 9/11.
ABC NEWS Vicky Hen, a ticket agent for the Israeli airline, was shot and killed, along with a traveler, 46-year-old Yaakov Aminov, a father of eight. Four others were wounded before an El Al air marshal shot 41-year-old Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian national living in Irvine.
SMH The FBI said it was an isolated incident and it was not seeking other suspects. CNN quoted an unnamed White House source as saying, “There is no other intelligence that would speak [of terrorism] … we don’t have anything to suggest this is anything other than a criminal act.” The Israelis insisted it had to be terrorism because it was their airline and the shooting happened on July 4. O
A spokesman for Mexicana Airlines, which had a ticketing counter adjacent to El Al, said one of his supervisors had overheard the gunman having a heated argument at the El Al counter, apparently to do with his documentation. Police sources also said the gunman might have borne a grudge, possibly connected with his employment.
But David Parkus, a Texas doctor who was waiting at the nearby Singapore Airlines desk, said the gunman had walked purposefully towards the El Al desk and had started shooting from about five metres away.
He said the man had fired about five shots in rapid succession when one of two El Al security men, a blond man in his twenties, grabbed the gunman’s wrist and began to fight him to the ground. A second security man, later identified as Haim Sapil, then rushed from behind the counter and shot the gunman, who continued to struggle.
As the gunman fell to the ground, a 15-centimetre hunting knife fell from his jacket. Mr Sapil, the security man who shot the gunman, was later treated at hospital for knife wounds.
Israel’s Transport Minister, Ephraim Sneh, said: “When a gunman opens fire on El Al passengers at an international airport, you have to assume it is terrorism.” But the FBI officer leading the case, Richard Garcia, said: “We are not looking for any other suspects. As of this moment, we are not aware of anything else that might be related to this.”
The FBI responded to the theories in a statement saying, “While other theories were considered and researched, the investigation did not reveal the involvement of a state-sponsored group or co-conspirators.”
The media focused on an FBI investigation found that Hadayet’s limo business was failing, his wife had left him, and July 4 was his birthday. Yet a year later, after an international investigation, the act was determined to fit the definition of terrorism. According to the FBI, Hadayet wanted to die as a martyr.
“I lost my daughter, and for me, it is exactly like all the people in 9/11,” Avi Hen said. “Nobody is safe here.”