FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A gunman opened fire in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday, killing five people and wounding eight before being taken into custody in an attack that sent panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, authorities said.
Authorities gave no details on a possible motive for the shooting inside Terminal 2, which serves Delta Air Lines and Air Canada.
“People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs,” a witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”
Lea said the gunman said nothing as he “went up and down the carousels of the baggage claim, shooting through luggage to get at people that were hiding.” The killer had a handgun and went through about three magazines of ammunition, Lea said.
Then the attacker threw down his weapon and lay spread-eagle on the ground until he was taken into custody, Lea said.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida identified the gunman as Esteban Santiago and said that he was carrying a military ID, but that it was unclear whether it was his.
“We don’t know a motive at this point,” Nelson said. “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.”
President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House.
The airport suspended operations as law enforcement authorities rushed to the scene and emergency medical workers treated at least one bleeding victim on the tarmac.
People spilled onto the tarmac, some carrying luggage, and some ran from both Terminals 1 and 2, hiding behind cars or anything else they could find to shield themselves.
Video posted on Instagram appeared to show several people wounded in the baggage claim area of the terminal. One person appeared to be lying in a pool of blood with a head wound.
Paramedics could also be seen treating a bleeding victim outside the airport. Hundreds of people stood on the tarmac as an ambulance drove by.
Flights already in the air and headed for the airport were delayed or diverted, and those that had yet to take off for Fort Lauderdale were held on the ground.
John Schilcher told Fox News said he came up to the baggage claim and heard the first gunshot as he picked up his bag off a carousel.
“The person next to me fell to the ground and then I started hearing other pops. And as this happened, other people started falling and you could hear it and smell it, and people on either side of me were going down and I just dropped to the ground,” said Schilcher, who was there with his wife and mother-in-law.
“The firing just went on and on,” he said.
He said the gunman emptied his weapon and reloaded, and “it was eerily quiet.”
“I was down on the floor, when we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me,” Schilcher said. “That’s when I assumed it was safe.”
Shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport
Shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport x
News helicopters hovering over the scene showed hundreds of people standing on the tarmac early Friday afternoon as an ambulance drove by and numerous law enforcement officers rushed to the scene.