IRVINE, Calif. – Neighbors of airport gunman Hesham Mohamed Hadayet knew him as being quiet, but recalled he complained when a neighbor put up a large flag after Sept. 11.
Hadayet, a 41-year-old limousine driver, was shot to death by an El Al security guard at Los Angeles International Airport after he opened fire at the Israeli airline's ticket counter on the Fourth of July, killing two people.
Hadayet, an Egyptian who also went by the last name Ali, came to the United States 10 years ago. He ended up living with his wife and two sons, 8 and 11, in a small apartment building at the Woodbridge Pines development, a middle-class neighborhood between restaurants and a shopping center in suburban Orange County.
The FBI and local authorities searched the apartment Thursday night, impounding a Toyota Camry and carrying away a computer, books, binders and other material. They refused to say what else the search turned up.
The FBI said it was withholding judgment on the motive, including whether to label the attack as terrorism or a hate crime.
Neighbors said Hadayet lived quietly, but became incensed when an upstairs neighbor hung large American and Marine Corps flags from a balcony above his front door after Sept. 11. The flags remained there Thursday night.
"He complained about it to the apartment manager. He thought it was being thrown in his face," said another neighbor, Steve Thompson. The upstairs neighbor declined to comment.
A bumper sticker on Hadayet's front door said: "Read the Koran." It was later removed.
Hadayet and his wife kept to themselves, said Anthony Martinez, 25, whose nephew attended school this year with one of the Hadayet sons, 8-year-old Omar.
"The boy was really friendly," Martinez said.
Omar left school a week before classes ended, telling schoolmates he was going to Egypt for the summer, Martinez said.
Martinez occasionally saw the wife and the other son, but the woman rarely spoke.
After the shooting, Irvine police first went to the apartment to check the welfare of his wife and children, police Lt. Sam Allevato said.
The FBI later confirmed that the wife and children were safe, said Allevato, but he would not say where they were.
Irvine police records show three prior contacts with Hadayet, beginning in 1996, according to Allevato. But it was unclear what those contacts were for, and whether he or someone else called police, he said.
Hadayet ran his livery service, Five Star Limo, from his ground floor apartment in one of a dozen similar small buildings in the development.
He was often seen cleaning out his limousine, said Kobi Metzler, 44, who lives near Hadayet.
Metzler said his 16-year-old daughter recently asked Hadayet about using his limo service to go to her prom.
"She came home and said 'Dad, this guy is so cool,'" Metzler said, adding that Hadayet offered his daughter "a really low price."
But Metzler said he was uncomfortable allowing his daughter to hire Hadayet.
"I'm Jewish. I didn't feel comfortable with it," he said.
Neighbors milled about outside as the search went on early Friday.
Shawn Salehin, 34, said he learned of the shooting after he heard helicopters over the apartment complex.
"There were police all over the place," Salehin said. "It's sad. I can't believe it's right here."