- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

Three people died in a gunbattle yesterday at the ticket counter of El Al Israel Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport.
FBI officials alert for Independence Day terrorist attacks said the shooting appears to be an isolated incident and not terrorism-related, although Israeli officials said they would treat the shootings as if they were.
Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn told reporters that an armed individual opened fire near the El Al ticket counter in the airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal just before noon, killing two civilians before he was fatally shot by El Al security personnel.
"This appears to be an isolated incident," said Richard Garcia, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, adding that the FBI is not looking for other suspects. The FBI is taking the lead in the case, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Bradley terminal, one of nine at the airport, was promptly evacuated, forcing thousands of confused travelers onto the airport thoroughfare outside the building.
The 52-year-old gunman has not been publicly identified, nor was there any immediate official indication of his motive.
An eyewitness to the shooting, Josef Bootski, told CNN he was standing 20 feet away from the gunman when the rampage began. He described the gunman as a slightly overweight "white guy" with a long ponytail and said the gunman was yelling that someone took his job.
Mr. Bootski said there were "people running all over the place," and he asked, "Why shoot someone over that?"
Robin Berglund, another eyewitness, told CNN he heard eight to 12 gunshots a short burst followed by several more shots. When he looked over the balcony edge, he saw three people down, including a middle-aged man in a suit surrounded by security people.
One of the victims was Yaakov Aminov, 46, of Los Angeles, relatives at his home confirmed.
His brother-in-law, Mark Ezerzer, told the Associated Press that Mr. Aminov had eight children and that his wife is pregnant.
"He loved people, and his home was always open," Mr. Ezerzer said. "He was a very honest and a good person."
Mr. Aminov, a jewelry-shop owner, had taken his friend, Michael Shabtay, to the airport. After being caught in the spray of gunfire, Mr. Aminov collapsed in his friend's arms, Mr. Ezerzer said.
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 the airport.
The wounded included a 61-year-old woman who was shot in the ankle, a 40-year-old man who was knifed and a man in his 20s who was pistol-whipped, authorities said. Asked about reports of the stabbing, Mr. Garcia said, "There are various weapons that we're looking at."
El Al said one of the injured was a security officer hurt "while the attacker was being neutralized."
Yitzhak Amitai, deputy managing director of the airline, said there had been no warnings of such an attack. Airline officials also said there was no specific information indicating the shooting was a terrorist assault.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the Jewish state would, with U.S. help, track down those responsible for the shooting.
In a statement, Mr. Peres lauded "the quick response and courage of the Israeli security agents at the site," and added that he "is certain that Israeli and American security forces will succeed in searching for and capturing the organizers."
Earlier, Israeli Transport Minister Efraim Sneh said the shooting spree was believed to be a "terrorist attack."
Mr. Sneh said, "Organizations, primarily extremist Islamic organizations, are planning to hit Israeli targets outside [the Jewish state]. And an airport is a preferred target."
However, Matthew McLaughlin, an FBI spokesman for the Los Angeles area, said nothing yet indicates terrorism links, although that has not been ruled out and the investigation is continuing.
Terrorism also was dismissed in a small plane crash in the nearby Los Angeles suburb of San Dimas.
A small private plane struggling to gain altitude after takeoff crashed into a July Fourth crowd at a public park. Three persons on the ground died and 13 were injured, some of them children picnicking with their families, firefighters said. The pilot also died, although a passenger survived.
California Gov. Gray Davis said the pilot issued two "mayday" calls after takeoff from Brackett Field, a small airport near the park.
Mr. Davis also expressed condolences and anger over the airport shooting.
"Like all Californians, I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn of today's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport," he said in a statement. "That it happened on a day on which we honor what America stands for liberty, security and diversity makes this particularly more tragic."
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said late yesterday that the airport is accepting incoming international flights, but that international flights departing from the airport have been delayed.
She said domestic flights are arriving and departing as they normally would and that there were no travel delays elsewhere in the United States from any ripple effect.
A Department of Transportation spokesman said no additional security measures were requested by the government for other airports around the nation as a result of the Los Angeles incident.
Fatal shootings have happened before in the unsecured areas of airports.
In late May, a California woman died in a shooting at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport. Patrick Gott, 43, of Pensacola, Fla., was charged in the attack, according to the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate.
This article was based in part on wire service reports.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide