Three dead
in LA airport

By Chelsea Carter, The Associated Press
Friday July 05, 2002

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles airport was jammed with holiday travelers Thursday when May Park entered the international terminal. 

Park, of Miami, was standing near the ticket counter for Israel’s El Al Airlines when he heard three shots — “just bang, bang, bang, in a row.” 

Three people fell to the ground. Then, stunned silence. And then, panic. 

Some travelers ran for the doors, some dove behind ticket counters, some took refuge in airline offices. 

“This is impossible,” Park said. “I couldn’t believe it.” 

The late morning attack left three people dead, including the gunman, who was killed by an El Al security guard. The FBI said the man appeared to be acting alone, and that there was no immediate indication of a terrorist link. 

Hakin Hasidh, 43, of Dusseldorf, Germany, was standing in a line adjacent to the El Al counter when he heard shots. He said he turned to see the gunman, who quickly was tackled by three men who looked to Hasidh like passengers. The shots appeared to be random, he said. 

“It’s really hard to tell whether he was aiming at the counter, at people behind the counter or at people in line,” Hasidh said. 

Richard Whittington, of Austin, Texas, traveling with his 79-year-old mother, Letta Lou, said he froze for long moments after the shots. ’“We were waiting for something else to happen, a bomb or something,” he said. 

Police quickly cleared the international terminal and closed the road running in front of it, causing a huge traffic jam on highways already busy with July 4 travelers. 

The airport’s domestic terminals, housed in several buildings separate from the international terminal, remained open, though traffic was slow. 

But at least 20 international departures and 15 international arrivals were delayed or canceled as the terminal was shut for more than four hours. The delays affected 6,000 passengers, according to airport officials. 

Hundreds of people milled outside the terminal, some hoping to make flights, others to meet them. Information was scarce. 

Los Angeles resident Alma Rodriguez, described the frustrating wait for her mother-in-law, arriving from Guadalajara, Mexico. “The airline told her plane landed. But she can’t come out, and we can’t go in,” she said. 

For passengers, the disruption and the uncertainty over the gunman’s motive intensified fears of traveling on July 4 — fears heightened before the shooting by government warnings of possible terrorist attacks. 

Sugi Faiz, who was waiting with her 9-year-old daughter for an El Al flight, panicked when she heard the shots. “We ran and ran,” she said. 

Her daughter clung to her, and “is very, very scared,” Faiz said.