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3 DEAD AT LAX GUNMAN FIRES IN INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL.

Byline: Ryan Oliver and Lisa Sodders Staff Writers

A gunman opened fire in the crowded international terminal at LAX just before noon Thursday, killing two people and wounding three others before security guards for El Al, the Israeli airline, shot him to death.

The gunman was Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, 41, a resident of Irvine who came to the United States from Egypt 10 years ago, the FBI announced after an all-day investigation. The FBI and other law enforcement officials were searching an apartment in Irvine late Thursday thought to belong to the gunman.

The shooting occurred amid heightened security to prevent a terrorist attack on the Fourth of July, but the FBI and other officials said the preliminary investigation indicated there was no terrorist link and there were no accomplices.

``All of a sudden I heard a sound like a firecracker. I saw a heavyset guy walking toward the ticket counter. He was firing in rapid succession,'' said Dr. Dave Parkus, a trauma surgeon who works at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, who was standing in line at Singapore Air, waiting to check in for a flight to Manila, Philippines.

Parkus saw an El Al security guard run toward the gunman, whom he described as about 6-feet-1 and 200 pounds, and rushed over to help. Before he could reach the agent, another El Al guard charged at the assailant, firing several shots that struck the gunman in the abdomen.

``He just basically charged him and kept on shooting,'' said Parkus, 39.

Parkus then joined with the two guards in wrestling with the gunman, who continued to struggle despite his wounds. During the fight, a 7- to 8-inch hunting knife fell out of the gunman's clothing, Parkus said.

``I was only holding his leg for a minute, and I felt all the strength go out,'' he said.

Richard Garcia, FBI special agent-in-charge in Los Angeles, said a preliminary investigation seems to indicate the incident was an isolated one.

``We want to make all the determinations we can to the cause of the incident. To this moment, we're not aware of anything else connected to this incident,'' he said.

Traffic at Los Angeles International Airport was thrown into chaos for hours, and thousands of passengers were evacuated from Bradley International Terminal. About 20 international flights were delayed and eventually diverted to other LAX terminals before normal operations were restored about five hours after the shooting.

One of those killed in the shooting was Yaakov Aminov, a 46-year-old North Hollywood resident in the jewelry business, who was dropping off his friend, Michael Shabtay, at the airport. After being caught in the spray of gunfire, Aminov collapsed in Shabtay's arms.

Also fatally shot was a woman in her 20s. The airline said she was an employee of a company that provides ground services to El Al at Los Angeles airport.

Parkus said he and his girlfriend, Pati Cure, a nurse-practitioner, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Aminov, but were unable to save him.

The suspect was described as a heavy-set man with a swarthy complexion who witnesses said was clean-shaven, wore glasses, a light-colored shirt and sports jacket.

Authorities said the gunman was not carrying ID, but that they had made a preliminary identification, which they declined to release. They also deployed a bomb squad to check out a vehicle they believe belonged to the man, but found no evidence of explosives.

The gunman was armed with a .45-caliber handgun, which was used in the shooting, as well as a 9mm pistol, which was not fired, officials said.

``The first couple of shots, everybody just stood there frozen like I was,'' said passenger Hakin Hasidh, 43, of Dusseldorf, Germany. ``It's really hard to tell whether he was aiming at the counter, at people behind the counter or at people in line.''

Gov. Gray Davis and Mayor James Hahn went to LAX and urged people to go about celebrating the Fourth of July normally, with the assurance that all steps were being taken to protect the public.

``From a tactical standpoint we were well prepared to handle this incident,`` said acting Los Angeles Police Department Chief Martin Pomeroy. ``Our resources responded quickly to the airport.''

The shooting occurred about 11:30 a.m. at the second floor ticket counter of El Al, an airline that takes the highest security precautions to prevent terrorism. Large holiday crowds were gathered at the El Al and other nearby ticket counters.

In the chaotic scene, a 40-year-old was stabbed, a man in his 20s was pistol-whipped, and a 61-year-old woman was wounded by gunfire, in addition to the two people who were slain by the gunman. Two other people were treated for heart problems triggered by the shooting.

Steven Haney, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas, was looking for the baggage counter to ask about missing luggage when the shooting erupted.

He heard a woman yell from behind the El Al counter, ``No!'' Then he heard gunshots, saw the woman who yelled fall and saw the gunman turn around and shoot at others standing nearby.

Haney said he also heard someone yell, ``They're Arabs! They're Arabs!''

French businessman Herve Fleuriot was putting his luggage onto the scanner when the gunman started shooting about 15 feet away. The El Al security guard reacted immediately, Fleuriot said, and there was an exchange of about 10 shots.

``People were shot, but no one was screaming,'' he said. ``I'm very angry about American security. It was the Fourth of July, everyone knew there was a big risk. It's not normal to be able to enter an airport with a weapon. This could have been avoided very easily.''

Another witness, Robin Berglund of Los Angeles, told reporters he heard two bursts of gunshots - ``two or three rapid-fire shots followed by another maybe six or seven.''

``Then it got quiet and stayed quiet.''

``I saw three people down,'' he said, describing one of them as a man, another as a ``heavyset older lady'' and the third as ``a man in a suit, down, surrounded by security personnel. I saw him down and motionless in an awkward body position and I assumed he was dead.''

Bergland said the events ``scared the hell out of me, and right now I'm mad.''

``We're at war. It just makes me mad. I'm ready to fight,'' he said.

One witness said he heard the gunman shout that someone ``took my job'' and another said a security guard described the gunman as a disgruntled former employee.

Officials who gathered at the airport deferred questions about the gunman to the FBI, which was in charge of the investigation.

The governor and his wife were cleaning up trash on the beach at Playa Vista with a Heal the Bay group when the shooting occurred.

Davis rushed to LAX, where he was briefed on the incident and spoke with federal Homeland Security head Tom Ridge.

``That it happened on the day on which we honor what America stands for - liberty, security and diversity - makes this particularly more tragic,'' he said.

``I can assure the people of California that there are more law enforcement officials on duty today than has ever been the case, and this is well before the incident at LAX.

``This is America's birthday ... So please continue with your celebration. Yes, be on alert, and if you see something that looks odd to you, let the police know.''

The mayor similarly urged people to enjoy their holiday celebrations and offered assurance to the public.

``Our security perimeter is similar to security perimeters around the world,'' Hahn said. ``The idea is to prevent someone getting on a plane with a weapon or dangerous device.''

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, map

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Los Angeles police close the departure ramp, above, at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday after a gunman opened fire at Israel's El Al airlines ticket counter. Three people were killed, including the attacker. At right, crowds of people are shown in a CNN TV image after they were evacuated from the international terminal.

Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

KCBS via Associated Press

(3) Stranded passengers wait outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal on Thursday after police shut it down.

Krista Niles/Associated Press

Box:

(1) SHOOTOUT INSIDE TOM BRADLEY TERMINAL

Three people died Thursday afternoon in a shootout at the El Al Israeli airline counter at Los Angeles International Airport.

(2) AIRLINE SERVICED

SOURCES: Los Angeles International Airport; The New York Times

Daily News

Map:

L.A. International Airport
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 5, 2002
Words:1418
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