February 25, 1997 in Nation/World

Rage, Loss Of Money Drove Gunman Killer Had Lost Life’s Savings; Hate Letter Found In His Pocket

New York Daily News
 

Desperate for money and filled with rage, the man who opened fire atop the Empire State Building spent the day before his deadly assault scoping out the skyscraper.

Ali Abu Kamal, 69, a retired college instructor from the Gaza Strip, returned Sunday armed with a semiautomatic handgun. In his pocket was a letter of hate blaming all those he perceived as his enemies.

As the sun set over Manhattan, Abu Kamal fatally shot a Danish rock musician and wounded six other people before killing himself.

Abu Kamal began setting his deadly course Saturday when he waited in line with the crowds heading up to the 86th floor. Once there, he spent the day mingling with sightseers 1,050 feet above Manhattan.

The following day, several hours before the shooting, Abu Kamal called his family in Gaza City and told them he’d been cheated out of his life’s savings - money he’d come to America to invest. He did not explain how he lost the money.

But he mentioned that he’d been swindled in the two-page letter found in his blood-splattered pouch after the shooting. In it, Abu Kamal said he would lash out at the U.S., Israel and other perceived enemies by targeting the landmark Empire State Building, an official said Monday.

“It looks very much premeditated,” said a law enforcement source. “He had a lot of grievances against a lot of people. He was mad at the U.S., France, Great Britain.”

In his two-page rant, Abu Kamal complained in Arabic and English about Americans, the British and the French.

“I hate this country, I hate the State of New York, I’m going to kill all these (expletive),” a source said, paraphrasing the letter.

Under the heading “Charter of Honor,” Abu Kamal listed those with whom he had scores to settle, including three Palestinians who beat him in 1993, as well as an Egyptian and two men who allegedly had attacked his son.

On the backs of losing New York and Florida lottery tickets found in his pockets, Abu Kamal revealed how desperate he was for money.

“If I don’t win today, that’s going to be it,” a source said, quoting from one of the tickets.

After his phone call home, Abu Kamal returned to the landmark building just after 5 p.m. with the .380-caliber Beretta hidden under a long coat - and shot seven strangers.

Abu Kamal came to the United States intending to invest his life’s savings - about $300,000 - and eventually move his wife, six daughters, their husbands and his two sons from Gaza, his family said.

They said Abu Kamal was not involved with politics or even especially religious. They said he had wanted to emigrate since he’d been kidnaped several years ago by militant Islamic vigilantes who broke his legs and an arm.

A native of Jaffa, Palestine, Abu Kamal obtained a passport from the Palestinian Authority in May and got a visa to visit the United States on Sept. 6 from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

He landed in New York on Christmas Eve, investigators said.

From there he flew south to Melbourne, Fla., and checked into a motel Jan. 11. He paid for each of the three weeks he stayed there with $100 bills.

“I knew he was Palestinian, but I wondered why he was here in Melbourne,” said motel owner Judy Gregory, who said the town has few foreigners. “He said he was visiting friends.”

Gregory said Abu Kamal asked her husband to help him program the “sex channel” on the television in his room and spent his days drinking and partying with prostitutes.

Abu Kamal was also fond of standing outside his door - nude.

“I told him, ‘Papa, you can’t do that,”’ said Gregory. “That’s not cool.”

On Feb. 1, Abu Kamal told Gregory he was heading to New York. First, authorities said, he bought the murder weapon.

Abu Kamal’s first casualty Sunday was 27-year-old Danish rock musician Chris Burmeister.

His bandmate Matthew Gross, 27, of Montclair, N.J., was in critical condition at Bellevue Hospital.

A French couple, tourists from Argentina and Switzerland and 34-year-old Hector Mendez of the Bronx were recuperating from gunshot wounds suffered when Abu Kamal sprayed the 86th-floor observation deck with bullets.

Meanwhile, the management of the Empire State Building began reinstalling the metal detectors that had been put in place after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing - but were abandoned after four months because of the chaos and congestion they caused.

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