Five dead after Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting
FORT LAUDERDALE (FOX 13) - An airport passenger pulled a gun from his luggage and opened fire in a crowded luggage line at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Friday afternoon, killing five people and injuring eight others before deputies caught up with him.
The suspected shooter was identified as Esteban Santiago - a 26-year-old Army Reservist and former Alaska National Guardsman - whose family said he may have been struggling with mental illness.
Law enforcement officials say the shooting began just before 1 p.m. in a baggage claim area. Video posted on social media showed several victims on the floor next to baggage carousels, badly injured and bleeding.
Some bystanders were tending to the wounded, while others wandered around, seemingly bewildered.
"Casings were flying all around us," one woman said in the footage.
Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed on the attack by the sheriff's office, told The Associated Press that the shooter had arrived aboard a Canadian flight with a gun in a checked bag. However, the Canadian Embassy said the suspect did not arrive from Canada and was not on an Air Canada flight, but instead appeared to have flown from Anchorage, Alaska.
Witness John Schilcher told FOX News the person next to him fell to the ground when the gunman opened fire. He said other people started falling, and he then dropped to the ground with his wife and mother-in-law.
"The firing just went on and on," he recalled.
Santiago was arrested by a Broward County deputy after firing and reloading his handgun multiple times. Florida Senator Bill Nelson was one of the first to identify Santiago, who he said was carrying a military ID.
"We don't know a motive at this point," Nelson stated. "This could well be someone who is mentally deranged, or in fact it could be someone who had a much more sinister motive that we have to worry about every day, and that is terrorism. We can't conclude that."
Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was among the first to report about the shooting. He began live-tweeting the situation at 12:57 p.m., saying "I'm at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running."
The airport soon confirmed via Twitter that an "ongoing incident" was taking place in the Terminal 2 baggage claim.
News helicopters hovering over the scene showed hundreds of people standing on the tarmac as an ambulance drove by and numerous law enforcement officers rushed to the scene.
A later alert from the TSA warned of an active shooter and instructed everyone at the airport to "shelter in place," but deputies eventually said it was a false alarm.
The airport remained closed into the evening and passengers were forced to wait on the tarmac for hours. The FAA says a ground stop remains in place. Arriving flights within 50 miles were being allowed to land, but others were being diverted to other airports around the state, including some as far as Tampa.
Governor Rick Scott hurried to Fort Lauderdale to be briefed by law enforcement on the situation.
"Whoever is responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," he pledged Friday evening. "The state of Florida, the citizens of Florida, law enforcement in this state will not tolerate evil acts."
The governor said he had already spoken "multiple times" with President-elect Donald Trump, who tweeted "thoughts and prayers" for the victims.
Governor Scott said in a statement Friday evening, he was concerned about anyone affected by the attack and offered help via the website www.floridadisaster.org/info. Gov. Scott said resources were being made available from the Family Assistance Center, for those with loved ones impacted by the event - Visit Florida and Expedia, to identify hotel availability in Fort Lauderdale - and Airbnb, which activated its urgent accommodations in Fort Lauderdale.
Security at airports around the country was being beefed up in response to the mass shooting. Additional armed officers were visible at airports from Tampa to Boston to Phoenix.
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Information from the Associated Press and FOX News Channel was used in this report.