Published July 04, 2002
LOS ANGELES – A gunman opened fire Thursday at the El Al airlines ticket counter in Los Angeles International Airport, killing two people and wounding three others before being shot dead by an El Al security guard, according to authorities.
No official motive for the shooting was yet known, but Israeli officials speculated it was a terrorist attack. There was no indication of terrorism at this point, an FBI spokesman said.
"This appears to be an isolated incident," FBI special agent Richard Garcia said. "We have no other suspects we're looking for."
FBI spokesman Matt McGlaughlin said nothing could be ruled out at this point, however.
The 52-year-old gunman approached someone at the ticket counter and began firing, police spokesman Alex Baez said. No other details about the shooter were reported.
The other fatalities were a 46-year-old man and a woman in her 20s, according to reports. Also wounded were a 61-year-old woman who was shot in the ankle, a 40-year-old man who was injured by a knife, and a man in his 20s injured by being struck with a gun.
The incident began with two bursts of gunfire, separated by silence, according to witness Thad Weimlein. After the first burst, undercover police officers drew their guns and badges, Weimlein said.
"A lot of people thought it was fireworks and a prank" at first, according to Weimlein.
"It's really hard to tell whether he was aiming at the counter, at people behind the counter or at people in line," another witness, Hakin Hasidh, said.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal, where the shooting took place, was closed. Planes continued to arrive and depart. In all, around 900,000 people were expected to pass through the airport Thursday.
Israeli Transport Minister Efraim Sneh said that all of the gunman's victims were Israelis. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said those behind the attack would be found.
Fourth of July celebrations in Los Angeles will not be affected, LAPD chief Martin Pomeroy said.
El Al, Israel's national airline, is known for its tight security. The airline released a statement saying there would be no changes to its security operations after the attack.
"Like all Californians, I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn of today's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport," California Governor Gray Davis said in a statement. "That it happened on the day on which we honor what America stands for — liberty, security and diversity — makes this particularly more tragic."
The White House said it was monitoring the situation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.