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INS: Airport Gunman Almost Deported

The government had started deportation proceedings in 1996 against the Egyptian immigrant who gunned down two people at Los Angeles International Airport. But the following year, the man gained U.S. residency because his wife received a valid visa, officials said Saturday.

It wasn't clear what caused the Immigration and Naturalization Service to reject Hesham Mohamed Hadayet's first petition for residency and begin the deportation process, INS spokesman Francisco Arcaute said.

A year later, in 1997, Hadayet was granted permanent resident status because his wife, Hala, had become a permanent resident, Arcaute said. The INS allows foreign nationals to work and live in the United States if they have a relative who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Hadayet's uncle, Hassan Mostaffa Mahfouz, told The Associated Press in Egypt that Hadayet was happy in the United States and had only about a year remaining before he qualified for U.S. citizenship.

``I don't believe what happened,'' Mahfouz said.

On the Fourth of July, Hadayet was the fourth person in line at the ticket counter for El Al, Israel's national airline, when he began firing, killing two people and wounding three others, authorities said. He fired off 10 or 11 bullets before he was shot dead by an El Al security guard.

In response to the shooting, the new U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced Saturday that it would have armed law enforcement officers stationed at airport ticket counters and other public areas of airports.

``Had this event occurred at another airline counter without armed security guards, the situation unfortunately would have been worse,'' the agency said.

FBI agent Richard Garcia said Saturday it still wasn't known why Hadayet targeted the El Al ticket area. A former employee of Hadayet's has said Hadayet harbored anti-Israel feelings.

Authorities also had not ruled out terrorism as a motive, and they were also considering the possibility that Hadayet was despondent over his personal or business affairs. Israeli officials said they would consider the attack an act of terror unless it was proven otherwise.

``We are pursuing all three motives,'' Garcia said.

What is clear, Garcia said, is that Hadayet walked into the airport intending to kill. He was armed with a .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9 mm handgun and a 6-inch knife.

His wife and sons, Adam, 8, and Omar, 14, were visiting family in Egypt at the time.

The FBI searched the family's apartment and seized a computer, books, binders and other material, but released no details Saturday of what they contained.

Results from an autopsy conducted Saturday found that Hadayet died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen, said Dr. James Ribe of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

Shooting victim Yaakov Aminov also died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The other shooting victim, Victoria Hen, who worked behind the El Al ticket counter, died of a gunshot wound to the chest, Ribe said.

Abdul Zahav, a man who said he worked for Hadayet until he was fired two years ago, said Hadayet once told him he hated all Israelis. ``He kept all his anger inside him,'' Zahav said.

A bumper sticker on Hadayet's front door read, ``Read the Koran.'' However, Hadayet was apparently an unknown in the mosques attended by most of Southern California's 1 million Arab Americans.

After the FBI released his name as the gunman, members of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles began calling members and mosques in suburban Orange County where he lived. No one recognized his name.

``It's a very bizarre case because this man is unknown to the community and was not part of any organization,'' said Salam Al-Marayati, director of the council. ``At this point it just seems like the work of a deranged individual.''

Police records in Irvine show officers little contact with Hadayet over the 10 years he lived there. Police were called to his apartment once for a domestic dispute in May 1996, three months after his petition for permanent residency was rejected. They found Hadayet and his wife had been in a ``physical confrontation,'' but no charges were filed.

The only other Irvine police files on Hadayet were when he was robbed in 1997 while driving a cab and when he was listed as a witness and victim in a fraud case reported in 2001.

Also Saturday, authorities evacuated 700 people from an area near the scene of the shooting for about an hour because they found an unattended bag. A broken bottle of vodka was found inside a novelty package shaped like an instrument case that had the words ``hunting rifle'' printed on it, said Los Angeles Police Officer John Crispins.