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Background: Airport Safety

July 5, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: The FBI says it now has some information on the man who opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday. He was an Egyptian immigrant who came to the United States in the early 1990s. He lived and work in Irvine, California. Although the Israeli government has called the incident an act of terrorism, FBI officials at today’s news conference continue to say they were not prepared to declare any motives yet.

RICHARD GARCIA, FBI Special Agent: Right now we don’t have any indication that this individual acted in an effort as an act of terrorism. We are trying to still determine the motive. We conducted a search of his residence during the night. We also located a vehicle that belonged to him, or at least was registered to him in his name and to the address that we searched at the airport. The information that was came out of these two searches is being looked on at this time.

We are also determining from this information if there’s any additional leads that will indicate that this person acted other than himself alone, or whether or not there’s a better determination on his motive. There have been some reports coming out in the media that supposedly this individual was on a list or a watch list. That is not true. He has not been on any FBI or any FAA watch list.

We did confirm that this morning to ensure that we could at least let you know that. Right now we know that he was married, or at least had a spouse and a child. We know that family members have traveled last week prior to the shooting, to Egypt. And we’re in an effort to try to interview them. We’re working with the Egyptian government through our office in Cairo for this effort. We are trying to locate additional relatives that we can find and/or associates or friends here in this area or in other states in order to make a better determination. We have not determined whether or not this individual had any anti-Israel views or any anti other type of racial views, too.

As you know, besides terrorism and such, we are also looking at the possibility of a hate crime. We are also looking at the possibility of the person being despondent for some reason on a, I won’t say normal, but an abnormal reaction to being despondent. So if in fact this person has information whether or not this person had a particular bias or particular religion or nationality that would determine a motive. It appears he went there for the intention of killing people. Why he did that is still undetermined. That’s what we are trying to find out.

REPORTER: Have you talked to family members or neighbors?

RICHARD GARCIA: Excuse me. Let me finish. We do not have an indication from the witness we have interviewed yesterday of information whether or not there was a struggle, any type of statements yelled by the individual prior to the shooting, which makes it very difficult to determine an exact motive. Generally, you would think on a terrorist-type act or a statement that’s trying to be made because of a terrorist act, that somebody would do something or say something verbal ahead of time. Then again, we are not ruling that out as well.

REPORTER: There are statements by local Jewish leaders and the Israeli consul general contrary to your findings. Are those statements hurting you by them saying this is a terrorist act?

RICHARD GARCIA: No, it’s not hurting– you have to understand, from my understanding, the Israeli government when a violent act takes place on the entity of Israel or an individual of Israel, they presume terrorism first until proven otherwise. We cannot make such presumptions like that.

We have to base our information on fact. We have to base our information on extensive investigation to lead to us what is the motive to make a call like that. That’s just a difference in how we view things.