He went to Los Angeles International Airport with murderous intentions, investigators said, but the Egyptian immigrant who shot and killed two people July 4 had never raised suspicion during the 10 years he lived in America.
An INS spokesman said Hesham Mohamed Hadayet's first petition for permanent residency had been denied and police report a visit to his apartment six years ago on a domestic dispute call, but nothing else in the files even hints at the violence he unleashed on Thursday, his 41st birthday.
Hadayet went to the El Al counter intending to kill people, but his motive remained unclear Saturday, according to the FBI.
FBI special agent Richard Garcia said it still wasn't known if Hadayet harbored anti-Israel feelings.
"Besides terrorism and such, we are also looking into the possibility of a hate crime. We're also looking into the possibility of the person being despondent," Garcia said.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service rejected Hadayet's request to remain in the country in February 1996, INS spokesman Ron Rogers said in Saturday's Orange County Register. It wasn't clear why.
The agency began deportation procedures, but in 1997, Hadayet was granted permanent residency through his wife, Hala, who received an immigration visa through the Department of States' Diversity Lottery Program, the Register and Los Angeles Times reported.
Hadayet's uncle, Hassan Mostaffa Mahfouz, told The Associated Press in Egypt that Hadayet had only about a year remaining before he qualified for citizenship and that he was happy in the United States.
"I don't believe what happened," Mahfouz said. "I felt that he could not do that."
Israeli officials said they would consider the attack an act of terror unless it was proven otherwise. But on Friday, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, "There is no evidence, no indication at this time that this is terrorists."
Hadayet was the fourth person in line at the counter when he opened fire, authorities said. He fired 10 or 11 bullets before he was shot dead by an airline security guard.
Three other people were wounded, including a guard who was stabbed by Hadayet as he fought with the wounded gunman. FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said the guard will recover. A fourth bystander suffered heart trouble after the attack.
Hadayet was armed with a .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9 mm handgun and a 6-inch knife. A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hadayet had owned one of the guns "for years" and purchased the other a couple of months ago.
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. So he can't hold it anymore, he can't hold it anymore," Zahav said.
Others painted a far different picture of Hadayet.
"He was never hateful or belligerent," said Dan Danilewicz, whose 17-year-old son was a friend of the Hadayet family. "I can't see him carrying a knife or gun into the airport. Nothing anti-American or anti-Semitic ever came out of their mouths."
Hadayet's wife and sons, Adam, 8, and Omar, 14, had left California for Egypt about a week before the shootings.
Relatives said Hadayet was a Cairo-born accountant who ran a limousine company out of his apartment. Mahfouz said Hadayet studied commerce at Ain Shams University in Cairo and worked as an accountant in a bank before leaving for the United States in 1992.
"He is a very, very tender person and close to his family," Mahfouz said.
Irvine police Lt. Dave Freedland said Hadayet had three contacts with the department since 1996 — all of them "unremarkable."
Police records show officers were called to the apartment on May 19, 1996, over a domestic dispute. They found Hadayet and his wife "had been involved in a physical confrontation." Police referred the case to the district attorney for potential assault-and-battery charges against both parties, but the office declined to prosecute.
The only other Irvine police files on Hadayet were when he was robbed in January 1997 while driving a cab at Orange County's John Wayne Airport, and when he was listed as a witness and victim in a fraud case reported last November.
Neighbors said Hadayet was quiet, but once became angry when an upstairs neighbor hung large American and Marine Corps flags from a balcony above his front door after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"He complained about it to the apartment manager. He thought it was being thrown in his face," neighbor Steve Thompson said.
There was no record of such a complaint, said Rich Elbaum, a spokesman for The Irvine Co., which owns the complex where Hadayet lived.
The flags were there the day of the shooting. A bumper sticker on Hadayet's front door that read "Read the Koran" was removed by authorities.
The FBI searched the apartment Thursday night, impounding a Toyota Camry, a computer, books, binders and other material.
Los Angeles officials, meanwhile, sought to assure the public that the city was safe.
"We have no information of any credible threats anywhere in the city of Los Angeles," Mayor James Hahn told reporters outside police headquarters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.