Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


Gunman Kills 2 at El Al Counter at LAX Airport

Aired July 4, 2002 - 18:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

Our special coverage of this Fourth of July continues with the Bush administration saying the nation's aviation system is on the highest alert after a gunman opened fire at the Los Angeles Airport.

At a news conference a short while ago, FBI and local Los Angeles officials said this appears to be an isolated incident and they have no evidence, they say, that this was a terrorist attack.

But details still are sketchy. We know the shooting happened just about three-and-a-half hours ago, close to the ticket counter of Israel's El Al Airline in the Thomas Bradley international terminal.

Police say that three people have died, including the gunman who was killed by El Al security personnel. At least three other people were wounded. There is no official word yet on the gunman's identity or any motive.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the Bradley terminal. That terminal remains closed, no air traffic in or out. Domestic flights are still continuing, though, at the rest of Los Angeles Airport.

Now all this comes, of course, amid heightened security because it is the Fourth of July holiday. The first Fourth since 9/11. Again, the FBI is saying there is no evidence that this is terrorist related, and, at this point, they say they are not looking for other suspects.

Let's go live now to the Los Angeles Airport to our own Charles Feldman.

Charles, you were there when officials had this news conference that ended less than a half an hour ago, and they are saying at this point they think it's isolated?


But let me also share with you and our audience some new information that I've just obtained from a law-enforcement source. And while what you said is quite accurate, Judy, that, at the news conference law-enforcement officials stressed that they at the moment are not looking for any other suspects, I can tell you this.

A law-enforcement source tells me that an individual who is being questioned now by the LAPD and is about to be turned over to the FBI for further questioning is an individual, who according to eyewitnesses, had apparently been seen associating earlier in the morning with the alleged gunman, and that is the reason why this individual was taken into custody.

There's a helicopter -- there have helicopters going back and forth. I apologize for the level of noise and the distraction, Judy. So I hope you and the audience can hear what I'm saying. I'll keep on going.

According to a -- to the law-enforcement source, this individual was seen apparently in the accompaniment of the alleged shooter, according to eyewitnesses. He was taken into custody within moments of the shooting. He is not, however, being called a suspect.

He has not been placed under arrest. And that's very significant. He has simply been taken into for questioning and is now, I'm told, being handed over to the FBI to find out whether or not it was just an accidental -- a brush encounter that he may have had.

And, actually, I don't know if it's a he. They used the pronoun "he," but -- It may be a she, but we're told he. We don't know whether he just met casually the alleged shooter or whether he may have been in some way associated with the shooter, but he is in custody. He is being questioned and turned over to the FBI.

It is extremely noisy here. I'm going to do my best to hear your question, Judy. So go ahead and ask it.

WOODRUFF: Charles, we can hear you. You're right. It is a little distracting. But let me go back to something you were reporting earlier this afternoon. That is that some -- at one point, you said that there were two people in custody. Is that still the case?

FELDMAN: Well, that's a little unclear. The police source that I talked to indicated that there is actually only one individual. It's unclear whether there was another person, and that person may have subsequently been released because they're satisfied that they have no information.

Or there's some indication, Judy, that they may have been counting the alleged gunman who, while dead, was considered officially in custody, It's one of those police things. They may have been counting that individual as one of the two. Unclear.

But what I can tell you is at least one individual in custody being questioned. Not clear what his role might have been except that eyewitnesses place him with the alleged shooter earlier in the day at the airport.

WOODRUFF: All right. Charles, I'm sorry. I was -- there were some interferences here, and I was not able to hear much of what you said. But let's just move beyond that now.

At this point, the L.A. police -- of course, they're still investigating, but, at this point, they're saying people should have no reason to believe they shouldn't go out and experience -- enjoy the Fourth of July.

But, you know, you have to believe that, given these developments, people are going to be reluctant perhaps to venture out into very public areas.

FELDMAN: Well -- and you're absolutely right. I mean, look -- I mean, it's not insignificant, Judy, as I'm sure you well know, that the FBI has assumed the leadership role in this investigation.

You know, normally, a shooting is the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department, and when I began my journey to the airport earlier this morning, indeed, it was the LAPD that was the official lead agency in charge. So it's significant that the FBI has assumed the leadership role in this.

Now, whether it's because they have some suspicions that they want satisfied or simply because, as you've already alluded to, everybody has been jittery. We've been given these alerts for days now about possible terrorist attacks sometime over the July Fourth holiday weekend. That may, in fact, be the sole reason why the FBI has become the primary investigatory agency in this.

But everybody is clearly, you know, cognizant of the concerns about terrorism. But they're going out of their way -- and I think you heard it. Every person at that podium, whether it was the interim police chief or the FBI or the mayor of the city, took great pains to make it clear that they thought that -- so far that this was an isolated incident and that there was no evidence yet that this is connected in any way to terrorism.

But, you know, it's such an horrific shooting that whether it's connected to terrorism or not is hardly any solace to the people who were the unfortunate victims.

WOODRUFF: All right. Charles Feldman at Los Angeles International Airport. Charles operating in clearly a noisy environment there.

And, Charles, we know you'll be standing by. We heard officials say there's going to be another news conference a little bit later this afternoon Los Angeles time.

With me now in the studio in Washington, CNN's Patty Davis with some information on how all this is affecting air travel around the country, particularly the West Coast.

Patty, what are you hearing?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, The FAA says that there are no significant airline delays due to the incident at the Los Angeles International Airport, and there have been no major ripple effects across the country. Domestic flights at LAX have not affected.

Of course, there are international flights there that are not operating right now. The departure side. At least LAX is taking incoming international flights, though, at this point.

But the FAA saying, as far as from an air traffic control perspective, this incident at LAX is not having a major effect -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's a relief. We know, as you said, the flights are not coming in and going out of that particular terminal, but you're saying, beyond that, the repercussions are not nearly as bad as they could be.

DAVIS: Actually, they are coming into that terminal, and -- the international flights are. Domestic flights are operating completely normally operating at that -- at LAX.

WOODRUFF: So it's just departing flights. Just to be clear.

DAVIS: Departing international flights.


DAVIS: Right. Exactly.

WOODRUFF: OK. Patty Davis, thanks very much.

With us now on the telephone, someone who has written and done a lot of research on the subject of terror, is a man named Harvey Kushner. He's the author of "The Encyclopedia of Terror."

And, Mr. Kushner, before I ask you any questions, I want to emphasize once again that law-enforcement officials in Los Angeles at this point are saying they believe it's an isolated incident at the Los Angeles Airport, this incident that left three dead, including a gunman at the El Al ticket counter.

But, clearly, enormously disruptive there, and the fact that it's taken place on the Fourth of July raising many, many questions. Mr. Kushner, what -- for people who would be looking for some sign that there may have been terrorist motives, what would they look for here?

HARVEY KUSHNER, "THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TERROR": Well, obviously, we look for motive, we look for the nationality of the shooter, and, certainly, some other things that took place by the El Al counter. But, as you said before, you have to be cautious in a situation like this because we don't have enough information to say what it is.

Certainly, because it's an El Al counter at an airport which has been targeted, oh, for over 30 years, even in Israel a lot, back when the Japanese terrorist group killed many American pilgrims, Puerto Ricans, visiting Israel, and in Paris and in Vienna and in Rome.

So El Al has been targeted, and if somebody was going to El Al, they probably tried the ticket counter as opposed to getting on the airline itself.

But from what I'm seeing now and what I'm hearing, I think it's much too early to say whether it's terrorism, whether it was an individual -- a crazed individual.

But one thing is certain. We're going to have to revisit, like it or not, the fact that people can get inside an airport, a major airport, across the United States, almost anyone, with a loaded weapon.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean by that?

KUSHNER: Well...

WOODRUFF: The fact that people are not checked before they enter the terminal building.

KUSHNER: Exactly, Judy. Right now, security is much better than before 9/11. But that's at the checkpoint.

But, in any airport, anybody who's visited an airport lately, knows that they can drive up, leave somebody out, that person could walk inside the glass doors, walk right up to a ticket counter, which is removed from the security gate, and could be wearing a bomb, could be carrying a gun, could be carrying a -- you know, a bag with a rifle in it.

So this is going to have to be taken a look at in the near future. It's going to cause monumental problems for the airport security, but -- and when you think about it, how are you going to set people up away from the airport to get them through in some reasonable time.

Now they're calling for two hours before a flight. Judy, if we're going to have to, you know, address this incident -- you know, possibility of not allowing anybody in those glass doors, you're going to have to get to the airport four or five hours before the flight.

This is something I don't think the airline industry wants to entertain at this time. That's why it's important to identify whether or not this was a terrorist conspiracy or just a crazed individual, an independent act.

WOODRUFF: Well, it's very understandable why the main focus until now has been security on the airplanes themselves because of the possibility of a much greater disaster if somebody carries something out on a flight.

KUSHNER: Exactly. Because it would make, certainly, greater fatalities, and that's what we've -- you know, we've seen happen to us with 9/11. But, clearly, El Al has been aware of this particular type of issue, oh, for over 30 years by having armed security at their ticket booths.

As a matter of fact, an interesting side note is that New York -- the new terminal has El Al, along with some other international airlines. The old terminal -- in order for you to get even inside those glass doors into El Al, you not only had to have identification, but you had to have a ticket.

WOODRUFF: Yes. Well, Harvey Kushner is the author of "The Encyclopedia of Terror." We thank you very much for talking with us.

As we have been saying, the fact that this has happened on the Fourth of July is clearly going to have an effect for any of those who are paying attention to the news today, and on some people on their desire to go out in public to watch fireworks tonight.

I want to go now to the our correspondent Kathleen Koch. She's on the mall here in Washington, the national mall, where, normally, on a Fourth of July, hundreds -- well, tens of thousands of people, we think, would be gathering to watch the fireworks that are scheduled to go off tonight a little after 9:00 Eastern Time.

We were told earlier the crowds might be a little bit smaller. Kathleen, what are you seeing and hearing? And tell us what the people you're talking to there are saying about all of this.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, I don't know if you can see. We have another camera next to us. But, as you look up and down the mall turnout is really way down.

Now someone from the National Park Service told us, well, this is a bit typical for a very, very hot Fourth of July. But, you know, there's also the terrorism factor, the fear factor, and we really don't know which of those is weighing heavily -- most heavily on people.

Now we do have a couple of veterans who are here who come here every year for the fireworks from Germantown, Maryland. And why don't we talk to them and get their perspective? It's Heather Roy (ph) and Kevin Deifinger (ph). They're from Germantown, Maryland.

Now when you look around up and down the mall, I see a lot of green grass. What does it say to you?

HEATHER ROY (ph): Pretty much a lot of people are staying home, taking precautions, but to those people that have come out for this year, I mean, it's a great year, it's a great time, and a lot of available seats for people to have.

KOCH: Kevin, what do you think? You saw a lot of security when you came in. You know there's a double row of snow fencing, lots of security who checks your bags. They check you with magnetometers. Do you think that's a turnoff for anyone?

KEVIN DEIFINGER (ph): I do believe it is a turnoff. Plus, the heat, like you also said, is a major turnoff, but I do believe that the security is also a turnoff. But, I mean, we made it through no problems. The police were courteous, fast, and no problem at all.

KOCH: Do you think, though, as you look around and see how few people turned out and how quiet it's been -- was this really much ado about nothing?

HEATHER ROY (ph): Not really. I mean, like I said, people are taking precautions. I mean, it's early still. A lot of people -- just like last year, there are still people coming in, you know, taking in the sights. Some people on vacation. So, hopefully, within the next hour or so, a lot of people will still be coming through.

KOCH: We've been told that 32 people have been treated for heat, you know, being overcome by the heat today, and 17 have been hospitalized. You came here how early, and did you regret that decision?

KEVIN DEIFINGER (ph): Came here at 11:00 and -- somewhat, but we've been drinking plenty of water and staying in the shade as much as we can. But I don't regret it. D.C. is a beautiful place, and it's a great day.

KOCH: So what about you? You have a spot staked out where you go every year. Tell us about that.

HEATHER ROY (ph): You know, it's in the shade. We really like to take the photographs of the fireworks. It's amazing, the sight, to see each year in that no one's in the way, we're in the shade, we're out of the heat, playing it safe.

KOCH: Great. Heather, Kevin, thank you very much.

And, Judy, we are expecting, hopefully, eventually by the time that the fireworks start around 9:10 tonight, to have a crowd around 500,000 on hand, though, of course, they're forecasting some rain showers for later on tonight. So that could also dampen things a little bit.

Back to you.

WOODRUFF: So, Kathleen, they're predicting half a million people?

KOCH: That is the original projection, and, they're still holding to that. Again, the Park Service saying that, on a very hot Fourth of July, typically, people don't turn out until somewhat later.

But at least reports earlier today from the Washington, D.C., metro system showed that ridership was down 27 percent from what it was last year. So I guess we'll just have to wait and see if the numbers actually bump up. ' WOODRUFF: All right. We sure will.

Kathleen Koch on the mall where there is a lot of additional security this year. There's a snow fence around 300 acres where there are about 24 checkpoints people have to go through, and you just heard that couple that Kathleen was talking to saying they got there at 11:00 in the morning.

This is a wider picture of that mall area between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. I believe this camera is looking -- no, it's coming from the other direction. It looks like that's the Capitol in the background. This is from the Iwo Jima Memorial looking down on the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and then with the Capitol there in the background.

We're going to take a look at some other news from around the country on this Fourth of July, and, of course, watch those breaking stories out of California when we come back.


WOODRUFF: ... just moments later crashed into Frank Bonnelli Regional Park. Now we're told this is a very popular recreation area. There were a number of people gathered there at the shore. There's a reservoir, a lake there. People gather there celebrating the Fourth of July.

The plane came down. One person was killed. We believe it was the person on board the plane. There were 10 injuries. Six of those are said to be in critical condition. Two of them are children. They are said to be in cardiac arrest.

It was a twin-engine plane. We don't know very much more about the identity of any of those people hurt, but you can just tell by looking at the scene what a horrific tragedy that was. Families, presumably, were there.

And I'm reading now a quote from the Associated Press. An eyewitness said he was at the park when the plane went down. He said its wings clipped the trees in the park before it crashed. He said it went nose first. There were bodies flying all over the place. He said, "When we got there, there were two little girls under the plane trapped."

This tragedy happening in the Los Angeles suburb of San Dimas. It's about 30 or 40 miles east of the Los Angeles Airport where, of course, watching that shooting story as well.

To some other news now. A man with very close family ties to Iraq's Saddam Hussein has been arrested in Florida before he was to begin lessons at a flight school that was used by one of the September 11 hijackers.

CNN's Brian Palmer joins us now live from Miami. Brian, this man is in custody.

And have they been able to determine if he is truly the stepson of Saddam Hussein?

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, we do have confirmation that he is the stepson. Mohammed Nour al-Din Saffi, is, indeed, the stepson of Saddam Hussein, and he is still in Krome Detention Facility in Florida. We've got some more information -- some more details about him. He is an unemployed flight engineer who used to work for Iraqi Airways. Now he came into the country through Los Angeles on Monday, and he raised two red flags for law enforcement, the first of which, obviously, his relationship to Saddam Hussein, and, secondly, the fact that the last time he entered the states was September 7th, 2001. He was, apparently, transiting the country on his way to London.

Now investigators are also saying that a week before Saffi had entered the country, he actually got clearance from law enforcement, that he was cleared to come to the country to take a recertification course for his flight engineer profession at this flight school here in Miami, Florida. So, in fact, his story that he was cleared has, indeed, checked out from law enforcement.

Now Saffi was picked up in Miami a second time by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for a different reason. What the INS says is that he came into the country and identified himself as a tourist. Now he was studying at this school. The INS saying very clearly, if you come into this country to study, you have to have a visa. Saffi did not have one.

They took him into custody for that reason and, obviously, for those other two red flags, the Saddam Hussein connection and the September 7 transiting. Now whether the friends -- people close to him say that he was told he actually didn't need a visa, that the school said he didn't need a visa.

We're trying to clarify that now, but the INS says that doesn't matter. They're going to deport him at the earliest possible opportunity -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Brian Palmer in the pouring rain there in Miami reporting on this just stunning development, some would say, that the stepson of Saddam Hussein has been arrested or at least is being held in detention just as he was planning to take flight lessons to get recertified to fly a 747.

To New Jersey now where two communities are canceling their Fourth of July celebrations after an early morning tragedy. A fire killed six people, including three children, and a firefighter who proposed to his girlfriend just last night.

CNN's Michael Okwu joins us from Gloucester City, New Jersey.

Michael, what a terrible thing to happen.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely a tragedy. That is probably the understatement in this part of New Jersey for the day.

The children, I should mention, a 5-year-old and 3-year-old twins, were not identified by authorities, but they do believe that they are siblings.

In the meantime, a woman believed to be the mother of these children, we are told, was taken to an area hospital and is lying right now, we are told, in critical but stable condition. All of this, apparently, happened, according to officials, at about 1:36 this morning when flames engulfed a three-story family home here in Gloucester City, New Jersey, part of a pair apparently of row houses occupied by two families.

Eight firefighters were trapped for a period of time after a total collapse of two buildings. Five of them were able to escape to safety. Of course, the rest of them were not able.

Initially, we are told some 200 firefighters responded to the scene trying to battle with the blaze, and then, of course, trying to take a part in the recovery-and-rescue effort. But they could not save this town from experiencing tragedy today.

We are told, again, that the July Fourth festivities in Gloucester City and in nearby Mount Ephraim, New Jersey, which is where two of the firefighters lived, were canceled.


JAMES LYNCH, CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Always in this part of the state, fire trucks play a major role in Fourth of July celebrations. They're festooned with flags, with colorful banners, and the idea that some of the trucks that were here earlier had these banners on them, and -- it's just horrible to see them in the context that we saw them in.


OKWU: Even as people are trying to make sense of what happened here, firefighters are still arriving on the scene, moving to and fro, although we understand that there are no -- absolutely no people believed to be missing at this point at the location.

Earlier today, we spoke again to the acting prosecutor from Camden County, and he told us that he is conducting this as if it were a criminal investigation. He says, at this point, there is absolutely no evidence that, in fact, it is a -- that any crime here occurred. He just says he wants to make sure that absolutely no wrongdoing took place here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. And just quickly, Michael, before I let you go, can you put these towns on a map for us? Where in New Jersey?

OKWU: Well, they are very -- they're literally a hop, skip, and a jump from Philadelphia, very close to the border, about a 10-minute drive after you get over the bridge from Philadelphia.

So they're in the southern part of New Jersey, the -- I should say the southwestern part of New Jersey very close to Philadelphia, and this is pretty much a working- to middle-class community.

We are told these are tight-knit neighborhoods. People know everybody. And, apparently, accordingly to the mayor, who we spoke to earlier this afternoon, he said everybody is suffering collectively -- Judy. WOODRUFF: I'm sure that is the case.

Michael Okwu reporting for us from this tragedy in New Jersey. One tragedy after another.

We are going to take a break. Our special coverage continues. When we come back, we may have an identity to share with you on one of those victims of the shooting at Los Angeles Airport earlier today. We may have that for you.

Coming up, a news conference. And the news conference with Governor Gray Davis gets under way right now.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS, CALIFORNIA: First of all, I want to thank Captain Mossler (ph) for allowing me to work out of his office and set up a mini command center.

My wife and I were -- sweetheart? -- were cleaning up the beach at Playa Vista when we got word of the events at LAX.

Let me just say at the outset that I am saddened and outraged by these shootings, but I am impressed with the professionalism of the security personnel at the airport and at El Al. They, apparently, acted extraordinarily quickly and saved additional loss of life.

I want to inform you that I talked to Mayor Hahn about an hour and a half ago to offer any additional state assistance we could provide. As you may know, the L.A. Airport police asked that the highway patrol provide perimeter defense at LAX, which they're currently doing.

I spoke to Governor Ridge just a few moments ago to brief him on what's happening. I told him, in the judgment of Rich Garcia, the agent in charge from the FBI with whom I just spoke, that this is probably an isolated incident.

But the FBI's not going to rule anything out until their investigation is complete, and, obviously, that investigation is just beginning.

As for the accident in San Dimas, as best I can tell, there were two maydays radioed from the small plane to the airport. So, clearly, this was a mechanical problem, very unlikely to be having anything to do with a -- any plot or -- against anyone.

We regret the loss of life and the injuries that have occurred there and thank the emergency service personnel for their professionalism there.

The last thing I want to say is that 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. I would encourage them to go on with their Fourth of July plans.

We're going to continue with our plans, and, later this evening, we'll be Los Alamitos celebrating the Fourth of July with the public and with the National Guard as they open their base to the public, and I would encourage them to continue on with their celebration.

This is America's birthday. This is the strong -- America is the strongest force for freedom the world has ever known, and we are doing everything humanly possible to keep people safe. So please continue with your celebration.

Yes, be on alert, and if you see something that looks odd to you, let the police know. But, otherwise, be assured that local and state and federal law enforcement are doing their job to protect you.

QUESTION: Governor, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of NBC (ph). When an incident like this happens, clearly the lines of communications have to be quickly opened. How have you found that those lines of communication (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and with your office that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

DAVIS: Everybody got to talk to everyone very quickly. I talked to the mayor within moments after I was -- came here to the station. We were able to get a hold of Tom Ridge. I talked to the agent in charge, Rich Garcia. I talked to the commissioner of the Highway Patrol, Spike Helmick, who is doing a wonderful job. I talked to my special adviser for security, George Vincent (ph).

So communication is working. There are no other incidents that we know of in the state of California. The incidents appear to be isolated at LAX. And Rich Garcia, the agent in charge, at this time believes it's an isolated incident. Obviously, they're going to investigate it thoroughly before coming to a final conclusion on that subject.

QUESTION: Governor, in this case, there was no breach of security. It can happen anywhere. You can walk into any terminal, and there is nothing to stop anyone from doing this. But do you think this might change the way we look at security at airports even more?

DAVIS: Well, keep in mind, the original goal at airports was to prevent another plane from being hijacked, turned into a missile, and creating harm and loss of life to innocent civilians. And in that regard, we have been successful throughout the country.

I think the law enforcement professionals are going to withhold judgment about what, if any, changes should be made to airport security until they determine exactly what was going on at LAX. So, let's let the investigation conclude, and then we can draw conclusions as to what if any changes should be made, but I want to reinforce that the original goals have been achieved, which is to prevent any further hijackings of airplanes.

QUESTION: Governor, you indicated that you had a chance to speak to Governor Ridge, the director of homeland security. Can you give us just the gist of your communications with him?

DAVIS: Well, I have a very good relationship with Governor Ridge. We both served in Vietnam. We were both governors. We've known each other for years. He's done a wonderful job, in my judgment, as director of homeland security. My call was in a nature of a briefing. I asked him a couple of questions, and he gave me his best thinking. And we agreed to stay in touch.

Basically, he is in much the same position I am. We have to await the professional judgments of the FBI as to precisely what was going on today at LAX before we make any judgments as to where to go from here, but he's on top of it, getting fully briefed, and told me he's available at a moment's notice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two more questions.

QUESTION: Well, governor, I did have one more question for you. If I could trouble you to reiterate, clearly it's a beautiful Fourth of July here in Los Angeles and in Southern California. People should move on and do what they were going to do today. You say you were going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DAVIS: Yes. We started this day with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the California Conservation Corps, Americorps. I'm proud to say we have the largest Americorps group of young people in America here, cleaning up the beaches not too far from here at Plana Vista (ph). And we are planning to keep our second commitment today, which is to have dinner with the public and the National Guard at the National Guard facility at Los Alamitos.

I want to express my gratitude to the National Guard for its professionalism since September 11 at airports, bridges, responding to concerns the president has and that I have, and doing it in a very professional manner. So, I'm going to continue with my plans, and I want to urge Californians to continue with theirs. The best way to let people around the world know that we're not going to cower in fear is to go on with our plans on this America's special day, the Fourth of July.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question right here.


DAVIS: No one knows what the motive is. Agent Garcia told me there was some initial witnesses who thought it might have been a disgruntled employee. There are others that have a different view. The FBI is suspending judgment until they conclude their investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor.

DAVIS: Thank you. Thank you for coming out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, there, as you can see, the governor saying that they consider...

WOODRUFF: California Governor Gray Davis talking to reporters in San Diego, where he was today at the time of this shooting at the Los Angeles Airport. He said he was expressing his anger and his sadness at what had happened, but going on to say he was impressed with the work of law enforcement officials, as well as the El Al security people who shot and killed the gunman. We want to share with you the information that has come into CNN. And that is the identity of one of the victims of the shooting. His name -- he's 46 years old. His name is Yakov Aminov. He is a resident of Los Angeles. According to his family, he was dropping off friends at the airport when this attack happened. We're told that he died in surgery as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, 46-year-old Yakov Aminov. And family members went on to say that his wife, who is pregnant, fainted at the hospital and she was being treated there just a short time ago.

We can also give you a little bit more information. The gunman, according to Los Angeles police, they're now saying he is a 52-year- old man -- was. He was killed in the shooting. They are not releasing any further details. They are also saying that no one else has been arrested in the case. Separately, other victims, a woman in her 20s is dead. And a 46-year-old man is dead, two other victims in addition to the gunman. And the 46-year-old man is Mr. Aminov.

We can tell you that those injured, those wounded: a woman. We don't have much more identity than that. She was shot and wounded -- a man described separately at pistol whipped by the gunman, and then, third, the El Al security chief, who was stabbed in the back -- so, three people injured, three dead as a result of this terrible incident at the Los Angeles Airport.

We are waiting for a news conference at the hospital in Los Angeles, the King-Drew Hospital, where some, we know at least some of the victims have been taken. And we're going to get to that. And we're also going to talk with the El Al -- the former chief of security for El Al Airlines right after this.


WOODRUFF: Our special coverage continues on this July Fourth, as we watch breaking stories out of California and we watch preparations for the Fourth celebrations across the country -- two tragic stories in California: the shootings at the Los Angeles Airport at the El Al ticket counter several hours ago; another incident, a small plane crashing into a crowd celebrating the Fourth at a suburb of Los Angeles -- three dead at the airport, one dead in that small plane incident in the suburbs.

We are now waiting for another news conference. We believe the FBI will be holding a news conference shortly. We're going to take you to that as soon as it gets under way. For right now, this is what an eyewitness to that shooting at the Los Angeles Airport saw said that he saw and heard.


QUESTION: You were there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I saw was one of the, I believe, passenger arguing with one of the El Al Airlines, and the argument about it. And then the passenger -- it looked like a passenger -- taking out the gun and start shooting to everybody, I guess. And the other guy jumped on them. And one of the security people for the El Al started shooting. And that's when it came down. And I saw, like, three injuries, I believe.

QUESTION: What kind of a person? Was it male, white male?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Male, all male.

QUESTION: Fifty, 60


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around -- no, maybe something like that, between 50 and 60, something like that.

QUESTION: White guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White guy. Looked like Jewish or German, maybe.


WOODRUFF: We couldn't show you the face of that eyewitness because he's a security guard. And you could see that by the identification hanging around his neck. So, if you're wondering why we were only showing his hands and his torso, it's for that reason. But this was an eyewitness at the Los Angeles Airport.

Joining us now: Marvin Badler on the telephone. He is a former chief of security for El Al airlines.

Mr. Badler, we have to say, based on what we have heard about what happened, if it hadn't been for your former airline security, this could have been much worse.


People in the United States have to know that El Al takes everything serious, and that, even before they get into the terminal, and they get into the terminal. Before they get to the counter, I mean, they're being watched. They're being observed for different indicators that would indicate to the security person that there may be anything suspicious.

WOODRUFF: Is this something that you believe all airlines should adopt now?

BADLER: Yes. I've been saying this for many, many years. I'm a security consultant. I consult with many airlines. And I've been telling this for over 25 years. And, apparently, it needs something to happen like this to take any action.

WOODRUFF: What was the argument against doing this before now?

BADLER: Well, I guess we can all say it's economics. I mean, that's the bottom line. The government does have to take part. The government does have to support the airlines in doing this. Most domestic or international airlines cannot afford to do that.

WOODRUFF: But it's -- you're not saying that the focus still shouldn't remain on the flights themselves? I mean, after all, that's a potential source of much greater disaster.

BADLER: Well, that's true. But as I've been saying for many years, it's before the person gets there, while the person is in the terminal, while the person is at the gate. The last line of defense is getting on the aircraft. People are not paying attention to what happens before.

WOODRUFF: Is there any other airline you're aware of, Mr. Badler, that has the kind of security that El Al has?

BADLER: No, not at all.

WOODRUFF: And we can presume that's because of Israel's particularly vulnerable situation. But why do you believe -- do you believe it is economics?

BADLER: Well, yes, because it's a very costly thing. The Israeli government supports it and probably pays for the majority of it. And an airline probably cannot afford it.

Several years I was involved with an airline. We did a survey. We made recommendations to them. They charged passengers extra money and they actually did nothing. And there was a problem. So, they try to give the passengers a false sense of security. And what has to be done properly is not being done.

WOODRUFF: Well, you are right, Mr. Badler. Sometimes it does take a tragedy so unfortunately like this one before changes are made.

Marvin Badler, he is the former chief of security for El Al Airlines. Mr. Badler, thank you again for talking with us.

We do want to go live now to Jerusalem to our Mike Hanna, who is on the ground there.

Mike, I know you've been talking with Israeli authorities. We are getting a little more information here in the United States about what happened. What are they sharing with you?

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Judy, the initial reaction from Israeli authorities and from El Al itself was to immediately characterize this attack as a terrorist one.

Israel's transport minister told CNN that any attack on passengers at an El Al counter at an international airport, it must be assumed that it is a terrorist act. But I hasten to point out that that word there is "assumed." Later, the transport minister confirmed to CNN that there was no evidence that it was in fact a terrorist act.

A spokesperson for Israel's prime minister is saying that they are waiting for further details to emerge before giving a full statement. Within the next half-hour, there is a news conference scheduled by El Al itself, during which we expect further information as to exactly what happened, from El Al's perspective, at that checking counter.

But we heard that former chief of El Al there security talking a little bit earlier about El Al's holistic approach to security, making very clear that that approach to security is not just on the aircraft. It's the whole approach to the airport terminal itself, through the airport terminal, through the ticket counter, and on to the airplane. Mr. Badler was saying very clearly that the security on the aircraft is the last line of defense. El

Al doesn't talk about its security at all. In recent months, we've been asking them on several occasions to give more details. This they declined to do, apart from saying that their security is intense. And, Judy, certainly the events at L.A. Airport in the past few hours indicate exactly how intense and how vigilant that security is.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mike Hanna, joining us live from Jerusalem -- Mike, thanks very much. And I know that we may be coming back to you before very long.

But right now, we want to go quickly to Los Angeles to our Charles Feldman, who has some information on the identity of the gunman -- Charles.

FELDMAN: Well, Judy, what CNN has learned from now three independent sources is that we are told that the alleged gunman is -- and I'm quoting now -- "appears to be an Arab male," "appears to be an Arab male." Now, that comes from three independent law enforcement sources, telling CNN that the alleged shooter appears to be an Arab male.

Now, what they're doing now is running through all kinds of identity checks. they're trying to find out very feverishly who this individual is to confirm what they feel based on appearances. Let me underline and stress here that, of course, appearances can be deceptive, that lots of people may appear to be Middle Eastern or Arab and may or may not be. Even if it turns out that this male is an Arab male, it does not necessarily, I should say, point to terrorism. It could just be the act of a lone gunman who wants to shoot up people at El Al Airlines.

So, it doesn't necessarily mean terrorism. It doesn't necessarily mean anything, except that we're told, as I said, by three independent sources that the alleged gunman appears to be an Arab male -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Charles, are they basing this on identification papers on the man or on his physical appearance?

FELDMAN: As far as I can determine, they are doing it based on physical appearance. I was told that he was not carrying any I.D. on him, at least no obvious I.D. It doesn't mean that law enforcement officials haven't been successful in tracking some of that down by now. But what I am being told is, it is being determined purely, at the moment, by physical appearance. And that is why I am underlining and stressing over and over that physical appearances, of course, can be deceptive and misleading at best. But, having said that, we have three sources telling CNN that the alleged shooter appears to be an Arab male -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes, all right.

And very quickly, Charles, because we're now told that the news conference at the hospital is just a moment away, still, is it your understanding that there's one person in custody being questioned who was seen talking to or near the gunman, the suspected gunman earlier?

FELDMAN: It is my information that this is an individual who's in custody, who eyewitnesses had pointed out to police, was apparently in the vicinity or at least associating with the alleged gunman earlier in the day. So, the police took this individual into custody. He is not under arrest. He is not being called a suspect. He is not being linked to the shooting. But he is being questioned. And he is being turned over to the FBI, which is now the lead investigatory agency.

WOODRUFF: All right, Charles Feldman, reporting from the Los Angeles Airport.

We are less than a minute, we're told, from a news conference at a hospital in Los Angeles. And we will get -- bring that to you right after this.


WOODRUFF: Our special coverage continues, focusing on today's tragedies in California.

We're waiting for a news conference at the hospital in Los Angeles, the King-Drew Medical Center, where those wounded in that shooting at Los Angeles Airport have been treated. We're going to go to that just as soon as it gets under way.

In the meantime, we want to show you once again what law enforcement officials had to say at a news conference about an hour and a half ago. Let's start with Richard Garcia, who is the FBI's special agent in charge.

Here's what he had to say to reporters a short time ago.


RICHARD GARCIA, FBI: The reason that they're indicating that we're the lead agency in this particular investigation is we want to make all the determinations we can to determine exactly the cause of the actual incident and to make sure there's no other connections any place else.

As of this moment, we are not aware of anything else that might be related to this. This appears to be an isolated incident. We're making the determinations through our investigation to see whether or not this is, in fact, a situation between individuals only versus an actual situation against a particular incident, entity or a particular organization.

Right now we're working closely, as I said, with the police department here. As the investigation continues and we make a determination, motives and such, the actual lead in the investigation will take place from that point. I also might indicate, too, that the quick response of the security personnel here at the airport, the security measures that were taken to this airport actually helped reduce any further injury that took place.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the suspect at this point?

GARCIA: We cannot say anything about the suspect at this point other than we're trying to make a full identification of the person. That one suspect is deceased and we are trying to make a determination on where this person is from.


QUESTION: ... several reports that another individual was stabbed and that the LAPD had at least two people in custody that they were talking with. Do you know anything about that?

GARCIA: There are various weapons there that we're looking at. The details I cannot provide you at this time. There are several injuries involved, and we're trying to make the determination who caused those injuries and what extent was made by what weapon. As ...

QUESTION: There are stab injuries, is that what you're saying?

GARCIA: It appears to be, but we do not have the determination exactly who did what right now.


QUESTION: Are you looking for somebody else?

GARCIA: No we're not. No we're not.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or two, two civilians and the suspect. Is that correct?

GARCIA: Right now we have two civilians and the suspect are deceased.

QUESTION: What is the relationship (UNINTELLIGIBLE) between the suspect and the civilians?

GARCIA: We can't make that determination right now.


GARCIA: That is still under investigation on how that took place.

QUESTION: Was it that same suspect ...

GARCIA: It's still under investigation.

QUESTION: And is it coincidence it was near El Al?

GARCIA: Pardon.

QUESTION: Coincidence near El Al.

GARCIA: Right now it's a coincidence.

QUESTION: But Richard, you're saying you're not looking and the police are not looking for any other individuals. Is that right?

GARCIA: That's correct.


GARCIA: We have no information to look for anybody else. We have no indication that this thing is related to any other incident that might be out here. Right now we're looking at it as an isolated incident.


WOODRUFF: That is Richard Garcia, the FBI special agent in charge in Los Angeles, talking at a news conference just about an hour and a half ago.

With us now on the telephone: Brian Jenkins, who is CNN's security analyst.

Brian, we are all struck by the fact that it was El Al's security people who shot this gunman and prevented a much worse tragedy from happening. But if it hadn't been for those gunmen, tell us what typical security is like at airport ticket counters, before you get to the place where people know they're going through security with their bags and so forth.

BRIAN JENKINS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we have to make a distinction between security at airports and security for airports.

The security that we have at airports now is designed primarily to protect the airplanes, to keep weapons off airplanes, to keep bombs off the airplanes. It is not designed to protect the airport itself. An airport itself is a city. Tens of thousands of people pass through an airport every day: passengers arriving, passengers departing, relatives and friends seeing them off, people working in restaurants and other concessions, at the ticket counters.

There is really not a security perimeter that prevents anybody from driving up and walking into an airport, any more than there is security that prevents one from walking into a bus depot or a train station. WOODRUFF: Do you think there should be more security, the kind that El Al has, everywhere?

JENKINS: Well, again, let's make a distinction here. El Al has good security for its aircraft. And there are plainclothesmen, armed agents around the El Al ticket counters. There are also, at Los Angeles and other airports, armed policemen -- not connected with El Al. I'm talking about ordinary armed policemen that do patrol our airports.

WOODRUFF: Brian Jenkins, I am going to interrupt you.

JENKINS: Sure, go ahead.

WOODRUFF: Brian Jenkins, a security analyst.

We want to go to a news conference at the King-Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, where some of the victims of today's shooting were taken.

Let's go and see what the doctors there are saying to reporters.

DR. JEAN-CLAUDE HENRY, KING-DREW MEDICAL CENTER: As you well know, this morning, there was a shooting incident in Los Angeles Airport.

At that time, the trauma system was activated and we were told that we were going to receive one victim of the shooting incident. The team was loaded on a paramedic ambulance. And, at the time of pickup, the patient was in cardiac arrest. The patient was transported to our facility in cardiac arrest. He arrived in cardiac arrest. And when he arrived, Dr. Dinkins, the trauma attending on duty. And she will give you further detail as far as that is concerned.

QUESTION: Ma'am, can you give us your name, please?

DR. GRACIE-ANN DINKINS, KING-DREW MEDICAL CENTER: I'm Dr. Gracie-Ann Dinkins. I am the trauma surgeon on call today at Martin Luther King Hospital.

We received a Caucasian male in traumatic full arrest, status, gunshot wound to the torso. The patient arrived in full cardiac arrest. Despite strenuous efforts to resuscitate the heart and regain circulation, the patient's injuries were lethal. And he succumbed to those injuries.

QUESTION: What exactly were the injuries? Can you describe those? How many gunshot wounds?

DINKINS: Because of the family's wishes, we are not at liberty to describe those injuries to you at this time.

QUESTION: Can you say if they were gunshot wounds, though?

DINKINS: They were inflicted by a gunshot wound. QUESTION: Did you have to tell the family of his death? And how did they react?

DINKINS: They were extremely grieved.

QUESTION: What's it like for you as a doctor (OFF-MIKE) to treat someone under these circumstances?

DINKINS: We do this on a daily basis at King-Drew Medical Center.


DINKINS: There was a single gunshot wound.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about his wife? I understand she fainted. (OFF-MIKE)

HENRY: She was severely grieved, as you can understand.

QUESTION: Did she require any treatment?

HENRY: We really are not at liberty to disclose treatment of patients. That's not hospital policy.

QUESTION: What time did the (OFF-MIKE)

DINKINS: I don't have an exact time. And I don't want to tell you any disinformation. He died shortly after he arrived here, within the hour.


DINKINS: At 12:04, shortly after noon.

WOODRUFF: Doctors at the King-Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, describing their efforts to save the 46-year-old man who has been identified as Yakov Aminov. He was a resident of Los Angeles. His family said he was dropping off friends at the airport and was caught in the gunfire there. And the gunman ultimately was killed himself by El Al security people. A tragedy at the city of Los Angeles at the airport this afternoon, making this Fourth of July a day when all of us had hoped to celebrate, but a tragedy that now we are forced to grapple with.

I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Our live coverage, our special coverage of this story, breaking story out of California will continue in just a moment. My colleague Wolf Blitzer will be here. Thank you for being with us.




Back to the top