IRVINE — Days after a shooting at the El Al Israel Airlines ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport left three dead, the biggest question facing investigators was — Why?
“Why would a man walk into an airport with two fully loaded weapons, extra (ammunition) and a hunting knife with a six-inch blade? It’s obvious he was going to kill people, the question is why?” FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said Monday.
FBI agents have interviewed friends and family of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet and scoured the Egyptian immigrant’s Orange County home for clues to a motive in the July 4 shooting spree.
But so far the investigation has come up with “nothing irrefutable that points to a motive,” McLaughlin said.
Earlier Monday, Hadayet’s wife told The Associated Press in Cairo, Egypt, that she spoke with her husband hours before the shooting and he gave no hint he was planning any violent act.
Hadayet, 41, was fourth in line at the ticket counter when he opened fire, killing two people, authorities said. He fired 10 or 11 bullets before he was killed by an El Al security guard. Two security guards and a Canadian woman were injured.
Although federal authorities had not officially labeled the shooting an act of terrorism or a hate crime, Israeli officials said they consider it a terrorist act.
“Based on what we know, it looks like terrorism,” said David Douek, a spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. “The FBI is also considering terrorism as a possible motive. I don’t think we’re as far apart as it appears.”
He said the FBI had been in contact with Israel’s consul general. He nor the FBI would elaborate on the conversations.
But Hadayet’s wife said her husband had never expressed anger at Israel or at the recent Israeli-Palestinian violence that has sparked anti-Israeli protest across the Arab world.
“No, this wasn’t an issue,” Hala Mohammed Sadeq El-Awadly, 41, told the AP. She did not elaborate.
Hadayet emigrated 10 years ago to California from Egypt, seeking asylum for himself and his family. The Immigration and Naturalization Service rejected his application and in 1996 started deportation proceedings against him.
But the following year, Hadayet gained U.S. residency when his wife received a valid visa through an INS lottery.
Russ Bergeron, an INS spokesman in Washington D.C., would not say why Hayadet’s initial application was rejected.
El-Awadly and her two sons have reservations to fly back to California Aug. 20 and they have an appointment later that month to be interviewed by immigration authorities considering their citizenship request.
“I don’t know now whether I am going back or not. Our lives are upside down,” El-Awadly said.
Bergeron would not comment on El-Awadly’s case. But he said typically the death of an individual who was not the primary INS applicant has no impact on immigration status.