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FBI Press Conference on LAX Shooting

Aired July 5, 2002 - 14:44   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you out to Los Angeles where the FBI is conducting a press conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special agent in charge of the L.A. office of the FBI, criminal division, Rich Garcia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we starting now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we starting, or what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, let's go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not five minutes from now, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now. The press release is going to be here in five minutes.

WHITFIELD: All right, we're awaiting for officials to begin this press conference to perhaps reveal more about the circumstances of the shooting yesterday at LAX in the international terminal, just outside of the El Al ticket counter.

RICHARD GARCIA, FBI: My name is Richard Garcia. Are we all sound checked and stuff?

I'm the special agent in charge of the criminal branch here. This morning earlier, and late last night, our assistant director for the Los Angeles office, Ronald Iden, gave you a timeline of the events that took place at the shooting in Los Angeles airport on July fourth.

Also, earlier this morning, we released the name and the photograph of the subject who was killed during this incident in a effort that the public can contact us to try to find out additional information regarding this individual's motive. In an effort also to reach out internationally to those who may know this individual, since we have determined that he is of Egyptian descent -- and could potentially help us, as far as, again, determining the motive.

Right now we don't have any indication that this individual acted in an effort of an act of terrorism. We are trying to still determine the motive. We conducted a search of his residence during the night. We also located a vehicle that belonged to him, or at least was registered to him in his name, and to the address that we searched at the airport. The information that was obtained out of these two searches is being looked on at this time. We're also determining from this information if there are any additional leads that will indicate that this person acted other than himself, alone, or whether or not there is a better determination on his motive.

There have been some reports coming out in the media that supposedly this individual was on a list or a watch list. That is not true. He has not been on any FBI or any FAA watch list. And we did confirm that this morning to ensure that we could at least let you know that.

Right now, we know that he was married, or at least had a spouse and a child. We know that family members have traveled last week, prior to the shooting, to Egypt. And we're in efforts to try to interview them.

We're working with the Egyptian government through our office in Cairo for this effort. And we're trying to locate additional relatives if we can find, and/or associates or friends, here in this area or in other, states in order to make a better determination.

In addition to what we are finding right now, is that there are some electronic media, in other words, a computer and such, that we obtained. We are still in an effort to obtain a search warrant to go through that particular device.

There's going to be extensive investigative efforts being conducted, a logical investigation being conducted. Still, that's going to take a few days to do. This conclusion, whether or not this person acted in an act of terrorism.

One of the things that we're still trying to emphasize is the public's help. We have color photographs now. We had kind of a bad black and white photograph this morning we released. We hope these color photographs will help, in an effort to bring people forward to help us in this motive determination.

Now I'll open it up to any questions you may have.

QUESTION: Can you talk about -- first of all, do you know if this gentlemen had what you would call anti-Israel views? And number two, is that something that you would want to know?

GARCIA: We have not determined whether or not this individual had any anti-Israel views or any anti-other type of racial views, too. As you know, besides terrorism and such, we're also looking at the possibility of a hate crime. We're also looking in the possibility of a person being despondent for some reason, on a -- I won't say normal -- but an abnormal reaction to being despondent.

So if in fact this person has information to determine whether or not he had are particular bias, a particular religion, nationality, whatever, again, that would also contribute to determine the motive.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... the airport yesterday with two handguns and a knife, and it is your belief now that he went there with the intention of killing people at El Al?

GARCIA: It appears that he went with intention of killing people. Why he did that is still undetermined. That's what we're trying to find out.

QUESTION: Have you talked to family members...

GARCIA: Excuse me, let me finish. Thank you.

We did not have any indication from the witness that we have interviewed yesterday of information whether or not there was a struggle, any type of statement that was yelled by this individual prior to this shooting and such, which makes it very difficult to determine the exact motive.

Generally, you would think, on a terrorist type act, or a statement that's trying to be made because of a terrorist act, that somebody would do something or leave something verbal ahead of time. Then again, you know, we're not ruling that out as well.

It did take place. There was several shots fired by him. There was a lot of effort by the public there around him, as well as the security from the airlines, to help stop this effort.

Yes, Ma'am?

QUESTION: I'm sorry to interrupt.


QUESTION: Have you talked to any of the relatives at all, to -- who might suggest that there had been marital discord, that he may have been despondent about that, number one? And number two, have you talked to other limo drivers who knew the man well and might have heard him make some remarks in the past about Israel or the conflict in the Mideast?

GARCIA: We are conducting more interviews in those two areas, relatives as well as associates. And so far we have no indication of any type of prejudice, if you will, against any particular organization or nationality. And as for as relatives are concerned, regarding domestic disturbance and such, we are also looking at that angle.

QUESTION: Sir, one other question and that is the parking lot security. Many people say that they've been checked rigorously in the parking lot by security guards. What is the status of that right now and was he parked in a normal parking structure?

GARCIA: He was parked in the normal structure across from the Bradley terminal. As far as the security and searching cars going in the parking lot, I cannot answer that. The airport authorities would have to discuss that with you, or the L.A. police department and the airport police.

Whether or not he did that, or whether they searched his vehicle, I don't know. I couldn't answer that question. However, we did not find any weapons in the vehicle.

QUESTION: We checked -- we did an auto track check on him amid various names. And by the way, just for clarification, which is the name you're now going with?

GARCIA: The name we're now going with, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet. And we're indicating we're going more for the July fourth date of birth, versus the other date of birth.

QUESTION: We were getting some indication that he may have received a Social Security card as early as the 1980s. If in fact that's the same individual, do you have any indication that, prior to his arrival in 1992, I believe it is, that he had, at an earlier time, established any sort of residence in the United States?

GARCIA: We don't have any information to say on that right now. Only thing we know that I can talk about, which was discussed earlier, that we have indications he arrived in this country in 1992. He has obtained a green card and has the status to be in this country, based on that green card.

Anything prior to that, we are looking at the same public databases that you may be accessing to. And we're covering all of those leads to make a determination. But we have nothing we can discuss at this time.


GARCIA: No criminal history we can find at this time.


GARCIA: No, we have not.

QUESTION: Any particular pattern of people who take action individually, from the profilers who (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to this yesterday one?

GARCIA: I'm sorry. I didn't understand.

QUESTION: Any particular pattern for the people who take action individually, independently, from the co-pilot who took the plane to the ocean? Could this one yesterday...

GARCIA: No, we don't have any connection to that right now.

QUESTION: Can we get on to terrorism, please, and whether...


GARCIA: We're looking at that to see whether there has been any travel. We're working with U.S. Customs and INS officials in that area.

QUESTION: Mr. Garcia...

GARCIA: Excuse me.

QUESTION: Was his family's trip, have you determined that yet, a planned trip? Or did something happen where he sent them out of the country, as if he anticipated doing this a week ago?

GARCIA: No, we don't have any determination whether or not it was a planned trip or whether or not it was forced travel on their part. We're looking at those aspects because we want to make sure that we covered the fact that if there isn't some domestic issues there.

We want to be sensitive to that and then ensure that that is covered properly. Because that all goes towards the motive, and such.

QUESTION: Is there any advice about a domestic problem? Was there in fact any information that there was some sort of domestic problem that he had?

GARCIA: We know that we have received information from the police department in the area, that they have had calls in the area for domestic disturbances. Whether or not it was related to a family issue or just neighborly issues or whatever, we don't know. We're still determining that.

QUESTION: Domestic calls, is that like spousal abuse or yelling, or violence?

GARCIA: Domestic call could be basically a loud stereo, too. It's just reports that the police department have been at that location.

QUESTION: And reports that there had been something about the Koran on the door before, and then it was gone and then it was back? Have you looked into that?

GARCIA: The only thing we know is that there's a bumper sticker that says "Read the Koran" that was placed on the door. When it was placed on the door and the motive for placing it on the door is unknown.

Yes, sir.


QUESTION: ... from the apartment, is the other report that we had.

GARCIA: Pardon?

QUESTION: Chemical smells from the apartment, what was that?

GARCIA: That was initially that they thought they smelled gas or some sort of propane and such. And it turned out to be false. It's probably all the barbecues that are going on in the area.


QUESTION: ... hate crime on this at this point?

GARCIA: We're not ruling out hate crimes. We're not ruling out terrorism completely. And we're not ruling out other types of issues that may be a random act of violence itself. That all goes towards the motives that we're trying to do.

The only thing I'm trying to express to you right now is that there are numerous amount of individuals that we still have to interview, to include family members when we locate them, in order to help us in that effort.

QUESTION: Well, one day later, sir, where are you in the different categories? Where do you point the most?

GARCIA: Pardon?

QUESTION: Which one do you point to?

GARCIA: That would be speculation on my part, then. If I could do that very well, I'd go to Las Vegas.

QUESTION: There are statements by local Jewish leaders and the Israeli consul general, contrary to your findings. Are those statements hurting you, by them saying this is a terrorist act?

GARCIA: No, it's not hurting. You got to understand, from my understanding, the Israeli government, when a violent act takes place on an entity of Israeli or an individual of Israel, they presume terrorism first until proven otherwise.

We cannot make such presumptions like that. We have to base our information on fact. We have to base our information on extensive investigation to lead us to what is the motive to make a call like that. That's just a difference in how we view things.

QUESTION: But if you're going in one direction and they're going in another, how can you expect the public to help you?

GARCIA: I think it helps either way, to tell you the truth. Because if they believe that it is an act of terrorism, whether it is or not, and then the fact that we're trying to find a motive, it still goes to the fact that information should come to us to try to help us determine that.

QUESTION: The Israelis, are they pursuing an independent investigation?

GARCIA: I'm not aware if they are.

QUESTION: Let me ask you, Mr. Garcia, about this whole issue of hate crime versus terrorism. The way you interpret it -- I'll will make you an English major now -- if this man did this act because he had some anti-Israel views, and El Al was, I guess, a representative of the Israeli government, does that necessarily make it a terrorist act, or what?

GARCIA: No, it doesn't necessarily make it a terrorist act. It could be deemed as a hate crime, no different than the church bombings and such like that. We're looking at all the aspects. We want to make sure that we have it in the exact information of the investigation, to determine the motive.

QUESTION: Well, what has to be part of this crime for you to characterize it as a terrorist act? What ingredient...

GARCIA: The ingredient is that, if we can associate this individual to known terrorist organizations, we have any statements in the fact that he started maybe his own organization and is going to act independently. Comments from their friends and relatives that may lead to that particular information. Or information that we may find as a result of the papers and documents we get out of the search.

So, those are different things that we're doing as part of the investigative process.


QUESTION: What did he say to the attendant before shooting?

GARCIA: There was nothing in exchange, as far as we know. All of the witnesses indicated there was nothing said, other than him pulling the weapon and starting shooting, and such.

Now, I'll take one more question before we go out.


QUESTION: ... Was he on any watch list or Interpol, or any of the European...

GARCIA: He was not on any watch list, internationally or domestically.

QUESTION: One other question, Mr. Garcia. The reaction by the Israeli security guard was fast, swift and fatal. We talk about this Israeli airline being the tops, when it's security. Their reaction, is that how American airlines would have handled the situation?

I mean, other people were killed. Is that the way it would be done?

GARCIA: I cannot speak for American Airlines or the other U.S. airline-based companies, and how they would have used that type of situation.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ask questions later. And people were killed in the process. I mean, is that how (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GARCIA: Well, regardless of the procedures on what was done, the fact that how they acted and what they did -- actually, to me, in my opinion, and I'll say that, is prevented other people from being killed.

The individual security guard was approaching this individual even while he was still shooting, the subject was shooting, to try to stop him. That person to me is a hero. So, they did a good job.

Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. You have been watching and listening to the press conference of Richard Garcia of the FBI out in Los Angeles, saying that they have no indication that the shooting yesterday at LAX was the result of a terrorist act. They say Hesham Mohamed Hadayet apparently had just recently gone to Egypt with his family, and now they are looking for any cooperation from anyone who may recognize this photograph, this man or know him, because they are still trying to figure out a motive for yesterday's fiery attack outside the El Al ticket counter at LAX.




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