Reports: LA airport gunman had history of money problems

The Associated Press
Monday July 15, 2002

LOS ANGELES – Hesham Mohamed Hadayet took a big chance 10 years ago. 

The man who authorities say gunned down two people on July Fourth at Los Angeles International Airport left behind an upper-class family in Egypt, gambling that he could parlay a six-month tourist visa into success in America. 

It didn’t work out that way. 

Hadayet, 41, worked as a cab driver before starting his own limousine service. Along the way, he worked illegally, overstayed the visa, applied for asylum and even bought a limo he didn’t know how to drive, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. 

In recent months, his business teetered on the verge of collapse. 

Since the shooting, more details have surfaced from Hadayet’s family and friends about his life in America. But there are still few clues about what led to the rampage. 

His personal agenda may have died with him. 

“We all thought it was someone else and they blamed it on Hesham,” said Tarek Oraby, 35, a Cairo native and former cab driver living in Garden Grove. “Nobody believes it .... People are asking, did he go crazy?” 

For a while after coming to America, luck seemed to be with Hadayet. 

He avoided deportation when his wife won a lottery for permanent residency. He worked up to a two-limousine service and hired help. He lived with his wife and two sons in Irvine, a classic Southern California suburb. 

He was known as a quiet, observant Muslim who wanted people to believe he was running a successful business. 

But in recent months, he couldn’t keep up with his liability insurance and his wife began asking neighbors for baby-sitting work. 

A number of neighbors, business acquaintances and family members in Southern California and Cairo described Hadayet as an ordinarily religious man with little appetite for politics. 

It now seems he may have been an overstressed man who snapped. 

“If someone is going to do a terrorist act, they wouldn’t park their car, then walk minutes to a terminal and then stand in line before they shoot someone,” said Medhat Mahmoud, a Los Angeles produce wholesaler and a former security official for Egypt Air who had known Hadayet since 1992 

Authorities said Hadayet was in line at the El Al ticket counter when he opened fire, killing Victoria Hen, 25, of Chatsworth and Yaakov Aminov, 46, of Valley Village before he was killed by an El Al security guard. 

His family refuses to accept any conclusions beyond the fact that Hadayet is dead. 

“All I want to know is: What will be the outcome of the investigation?” Hadayet’s widow, Hala Mohammed Sadeq al Awadly, said in Cairo, where she and the couple’s young sons have been vacationing since mid-June. “And from the investigation we should know exactly what happened and then we will know what the truth is.” 

Born in Egypt on July 4, 1961, Hadayet was the son and nephew of Egyptian military brass. He was exempted from military service as his family’s only son and embarked on a promising career at the Misr Iran Bank. 

By 30, he was chief of the securities and credit division. 

Given that success, it’s unclear why he chose to move to the United States. One American acquaintance said Hadayet had suggested his tenure at the bank ended badly. 

“He had to leave Egypt because he was in trouble there for some accounting thing he did,” said Bob Milstead, who runs the Newport Beach-based limo service, Executive Transportation. “He said he was framed.” 

Hadayet’s family denied he had a problem with the bank, and said his emigration grew from a years-long desire to live in America. 

Like many immigrants, Hadayet had trouble adjusting to his new life, Emad al Abd, a cousin in Cairo, told the Times. 

“He had to start all over again,” Abd said. “It was difficult to begin with. It was not what he expected when he left a bank here in Egypt to go to the States. It’s hard when you feel you’ve gone down, but he insisted on sticking with it.” 

In 1997, Hadayet started the limousine business. He bought a 28-foot limo in November 1998, putting $3,000 down on the $30,000 vehicle and agreeing to $1,225 monthly payments. 

Virgil Budnic, a limousine salesman, went with Hadayet to pick up the limo. He said Hadayet assured him he knew how to drive the vehicle but then ripped a long gash on the passenger side when he hit a pole moments after getting behind the wheel. 

“Of course, he was very upset and embarrassed,” Budnic said.