Lawsuits against the City of Los Angeles for the July 4th, 2002 shootings of two people at the El Al counter in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) were dismissed by a judge Wednesday, March 30th, because the plaintiff’s attorney didn’t identify a law that would make the city liable.
Richard Fine, the plaintiff’s attorney, alleges that the city is claiming “governmental immunity.”
Douglas Knoll, the civil litigation attorney who represented the City of Los Angeles in the LAX shooting case, praised the judge’s decision.
Knoll takes issue with Fine’s version of the facts and the law.
Knoll also alleges that Fine didn’t file any interrogatories and took no depositions or discovery until much later in the case.
Knoll said that if an LAX employee were involved in some way with the shooting, or if the shooting had been done by an employee, the city and the airport would be responsible under those conditions.
But Fine replies that the California Supreme Court has previously ruled that when “dangerous conditions” such as no x-ray equipment at terminal doors exist, governmental immunity doesn’t apply.
The City of Los Angeles had already applied for and received funding from the federal government in the federal 2002-2003 budget for anti-terrorist activity at LAX, said Fine.
Fine, the attorney for the families of the two killed at LAX — Victoria Hen, an El Al Airlines employee, and Jacob Aminov, a North Hollywood diamond broker — claims that the city didn’t provide adequate security during the shooting by Egyptian limousine driver Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet.
Fine alleges that while the city didn’t identify the 2002 LAX shooting as a terrorist attack, the city documents did make reference to that shooting “as a terrorist act” in another legal case.
Fine said that he is using Congresswoman Jane Harman’s recent comments about Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn’s “failure to address security threats at LAX” — when Harman announced her support of Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor — as a basis for a legal appeal on the case.
Harman represents the coastal area from Venice to San Pedro, and LAX east of Sepulveda Boulevard.
Fine alleges that at the time of the shootings, there was only one LAX police officer in Tom Bradley International Terminal and that the officer was at the other end of the terminal by the security scanner.
Fine also claimed that no Los Angeles Police Department officers were assigned to Tom Bradley International terminal that day, arguing that the city allowed the area to become a “dangerous condition.”
An El Al security guard shot and killed Hadayet, and the guard and another person were injured, said Fine.
Since Hahn has stated that “security and safety” were the major considerations for LAX and the planned remodeling since the events of 9/11, the message from the city conveys to LAX passengers that “we’re not responsible for public safety and people’s lives are worthless,” Fine said.
These shootings were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2003 as a terrorist act, and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, city and LAX officials should have been more concerned and prepared about the possibility of an attack, especially on such a significant holiday, said Fine.
Fine maintains that city reports showed that, since 2001, airport officials had been planning ways to deal with the possibility of a gun being fired at LAX terminals.
Fine said there were meetings from July 1st to 3rd, 2002, to plot security strategy to deal with some sort of potential incident at LAX during the Fourth of July holiday.
LAX terminals should have doors with x-ray machines, and cars could have been checked coming into the airport and garages, said Fine.
Hadayet entered the garage more than 30 minutes before the shooting, was just “hanging out, and he was in possession of a .45, a nine-millimeter Glock, and a hunting knife,” Fine claims.
Knoll, the attorney representing the city, had cited a 1974 case when a bomb at the LAX Pan American World Airways terminal exploded, killing and injuring several people, Fine said.
Knoll also cited a case in 1995, in which a woman was shot by her estranged husband in a Los Angeles courthouse, and in both cases, the governmental entities were not found liable.
Fine said the 1974 case was long before any terrorist attack on this country and shouldn’t be measured by the same rules.
“It’s a travesty that the city won’t take responsibility for the lack of security at Tom Bradley International Terminal that day,” Fine alleged.
“Here we have a terrorist shooting people, there was no security, and now the city government is saying they won’t accept the responsibility,” Fine further claimed.
“It has got to be the most hard-hearted thing someone can say,” Fine alleged.
In addition, a recent $900,000 study commissioned by the Los Angeles City Council concerning combining the Los Angeles Airport Police and the City of Los Angeles Police Department reported that there would be no advantage to combining the two departments, and that the potential estimated cost would be $50 million, with the airlines bearing the cost of the merger.
Fine said that the endorsement of Villaraigosa by Harman because of her concern over Hahn’s failure to address security threats, and the study of the merger of the two police forces certainly indicate that security and safety at LAX are of concern.