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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Motive Baffles Police In Skyscraper Attack

NEW YORK -- An angry, rambling note found in the pocket of the Empire State Building gunman accuses the United States of using Israel as "an instrument'' against Palestinians, a high-ranking police source said.


The letter, written in English and Arabic, suggests that Ali Hassan Abu Kamal had a political motive in opening fire Sunday afternoon on the 86th-floor observation deck. But police said Abu Kamal apparently acted alone, and his relatives said he was upset after losing his life savings.


Abu Kamal's note also expresses animosity toward France and England and indicates that he planned to vent his anger in an attack at the famous skyscraper, the police source, who wished not to be identified, said Monday.


The 69-year-old Palestinian teacher, who had reportedly visited the building the day before the attack, killed a Danish tourist and wounded six others before committing suicide with a shot to his head. One visitor was in critical condition with a head wound, and the others were in serious but stable condition.


The shooting prompted tougher security at the building, and raised questions over how Abu Kamal was able to buy the weapon illegally at a Florida gun shop.


New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir called Abu Kamal "one deranged individual working on his own'' and said there was "zero'' evidence so far linking him to any terrorist group.


In Abu Kamal's hometown of Gaza City, relatives said he had been distraught over losing more than $300,000 and had no ties to Palestinian radical groups.


Abu Kamal called home Sunday and said he had financial problems and could not send tuition money to one of his sons, who is studying civil engineering in Russia, a son-in-law said.


The letter found on Abu Kamal's body discusses personal issues, but does not specifically mention the loss of his life savings. It contains "rambling, angry stuff'' and accuses the United States of using Israel as "an instrument'' against his people, the police source said.


Some witnesses said he mumbled something about Egypt before opening fire.


Abu Kamal had visited the building's observation deck on Saturday, newspapers reported Tuesday.


"He may have gone up there without his gun to see what the security was, whether there were metal detectors there,'' a federal law enforcement official told The New York Times. "Or he may have gone up there with his gun and he simply chickened out.''


At the Empire State Building, workers Monday hastily installed metal detectors and an airport-style baggage scanner to try to prevent future violence. The new equipment was to be in place for Tuesday's scheduled reopening of the deck. The bright lights that illuminate the building were turned off for the night at 7:45 p.m. local time Monday to mark the tragedy.


Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other officials said tougher gun control laws are the key to preventing a repeat of the tragedy.