LAX gunman drew little attention in U.S.


LOS ANGELES, AP

The Egyptian immigrant who gunned down two people at Los Angeles International Airport drew little attention during the 10 years he lived in the United States before his attack at a ticket counter of Israel’s national airline.

Officers went to Hesham Mohamed Hadayet’s apartment in Irvine, California, on a domestic dispute call six years ago, but he was not prosecuted. And nothing else in Irvine police files hinted at the violence he unleashed Thursday, on his 41st birthday.

The FBI said Hadayet went to the El Al counter intending to kill people, but his motive remained unclear.

Israeli officials said they would consider the attack an act of terror unless it was proven otherwise. But on Friday, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, “There is no evidence, no indication at this time that this is terrorists.”

FBI special agent Richard Garcia said Friday it was still not known whether Hadayet was anti-Israel.

“Besides terrorism and such, we are also looking into the possibility of a hate crime. We’re also looking into the possibility of the person being despondent,” Garcia said.

Hadayet was the fourth person in line at the counter when he opened fire, authorities said. He fired 10 or 11 bullets before he was shot dead by an airline security guard.

Three other people were wounded, including a guard who was stabbed by Hadayet as he fought with the wounded gunman. FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said the guard will recover. A fourth bystander suffered heart trouble after the attack.

Hadayet was armed with a .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9 mm handgun and a 6-inch (15-centimeter) knife. A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hadayet had owned one of the guns “for years” and purchased the other a couple of months ago.

Abdul Zahav, a man who said he worked for Hadayet until he was fired two years ago, said Hadayet once told him he hated all Israelis.

“He kept all his anger inside him. So he can’t hold it anymore, he can’t hold it anymore,” Zahav said.

Others painted a far different picture of Hadayet.

“He was never hateful or belligerent,” said Dan Danilewicz, whose 17-year-old son was a friend of the Hadayet family. “I can’t see him carrying a knife or gun into the airport. Nothing anti-American or anti-Semitic ever came out of their mouths.”

Relatives said Hadayet was a Cairo-born accountant who ran a limousine company out of his apartment. Hassan Mostafa Mahfouz, who is married to Hadayet’s aunt, said Hadayet had studied commerce at Ain Shams University in Cairo, and had worked as an accountant in a bank before he left for the United States in 1992.

“He is a very, very tender person and close to his family,” Mahfouz said in Cairo. He confirmed that Thursday was his nephew’s birthday.

Hadayet, his wife, Hala, and sons Adam, 8, and Omar, 14, lived in an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood. His family had left for Egypt about a week ago.

Irvine police Lt. Dave Freedland said Hadayet had three contacts with the department since 1996 — all of them “unremarkable.”

Police records show officers were called to the apartment on May 19, 1996, over a domestic dispute. They found Hadayet and his wife “had been involved in a physical confrontation.” Police referred the case to the district attorney for potential assault-and-battery charges against both parties, but the office declined to prosecute.

The only other Irvine police files on Hadayet were when he was robbed in January 1997 while driving a cab at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, and when he was listed as a witness and victim in a fraud case reported last November.

The FBI searched the apartment Thursday night, impounding a Toyota Camry, a computer, books, binders and other material.

Los Angeles officials, meanwhile, sought to assure the public that the city was safe.

“We have no information of any credible threats anywhere in the city of Los Angeles,” Mayor James Hahn told reporters outside police headquarters.