The 2002 Los Angeles International Airport Shooting

Check-in counters at the Tom Bradley Terminal within LAX, where the incident happened.
Check-in counters at the Tom Bradley Terminal within LAX, where the incident happened.

On July 4, 2002, a lone gunman opened fire at the airline ticket counter of El Al, Israel’s national airline, at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. Two people were killed and four others were injured before the gunman was fatally shot by a security guard after also being wounded by him.

The attack

On July 4, 2002 at around 11:30 a.m., a lone gunman approached the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport, pulled out two Glock pistols and started shooting at the 90 passengers standing in the line. Initially, the assailant killed 25-year-old Customer Service Agent Victoria Hen, who was standing behind the counter, with a gunshot to the chest. Later, the assailant opened fire at the passengers as they huddled nearby and killed 46-year-old passenger Yaakov Aminov. In addition, he injured four other bystanders.

After the gunman fired 10 bullets at the crowd, one of El Al’s security guards, who was unarmed, managed to knock him down. Meanwhile, El Al’s security officer, Chaim Sapir, ran to the scene but was stabbed by the assailant with a knife. Despite this, Sapir managed to draw his pistol and shoot the gunman in the chest and after he fell, fired a shot that blew off his face and most of his head, killing him.

The perpetrator

Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41-year-old Egyptian national, was identified as the assailant. He emigrated to the United States in 1992, arriving on a tourist visa but claimed political asylum. In Egypt he was arrested for being a member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamist group. He denied the accusation to U.S. immigration authorities. He said that he was a member of Assad Eben Furat Mosque Association, a group that aimed to “understand truly and apply Islamic law in the 20th century under any circumstances.” Despite these Islamist commitments, he was given permission to live in the U.S. while his asylum application was pending. His asylum request was denied in 1995 but a letter notifying him was returned by the Post Office as undeliverable and no further efforts appear to have been made to locate and deport him.

Hadayet had a green card which allowed him to work as a limousine driver. He was married, and had at least one child. At the time of the shooting, Hadayet was living in Irvine, California.

Aftermath

Considering that the attack occurred almost one year after the September 11 attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that the attack was an act of terrorism, although the gunman acted alone. In September 2002, federal investigators concluded that Hadayet hoped to influence U.S. government policy in favor of the Palestinians, and that the incident was indeed a terrorist act.

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