Florida airport shooter was passenger with gun in checked-in luggage
Updated: 12:28 a.m., Jan. 8, 2017
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — The Fort Lauderdale airport shooter pulled out a gun out of a checked bag, loaded it in a bathroom and started shooting, killing five people and wounding six (not eight as earlier reported) on Friday afternoon (early Saturday morning Philippine time).
Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner, was briefed on the airport shooting by the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
He told The Associated Press by phone that the shooter was a passenger on a Canadian flight from Alaska and had checked a gun.
LaMarca said the shooter pulled out the gun in the bathroom after claiming his bag.
Sheriff Scott Israel said the gunman was not harmed and that law enforcers did not fire any shots. He said it was not yet known if the shooting was a terrorist act.
Israel also said there was nothing to substantiate reports of a second shooting at the airport.
‘The firing just went on and on’
A passenger said he heard the first gunshots as he picked up his luggage from a baggage claim carousel.
John Schilcher told Fox News the person next to him fell to the ground. He said other people started falling, and he then dropped to the ground with his wife and mother-in-law. Schilcher said: “The firing just went on and on.”
He said the shooter emptied his weapon and reloaded during an eerily quiet lull in the gunfire. Schilcher says he didn’t assume it was safe until he saw a police officer standing over him at the Fort Lauderdale international airport.
He said he remained on the ground and was told not to move as authorities investigated unconfirmed reports of a second shooting.
No additional shots
Officials said there were unconfirmed reports of additional shots fired at the international airport.
The Broward County sheriff’s office said on its Twitter account: “Active search: Unconfirmed reports of addt’l shots fired on airport property.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the shooting stopped all traffic at the airport. Passengers were evacuated from the Terminal 2 baggage claim area. Passengers returned to the airport as officials said the lone gunman was in custody.
But TV reports showed some passengers evacuating again, several looking panicked and ducking behind cars or hiding.
Witness Judah Fernandez told CNN he heard what he believed were the first shot. He re-entered the airport but then rushed out again shortly later to the tarmac. He said: “Everyone’s running now.”
He said both security officials and passengers were running.
US Sen. Bill Nelson said the gunman was carrying a military ID with the name Esteban Santiago, though wasn’t clear if it belonged to him or to someone else.
Nelson did not spell the name for reporters during a news conference Friday.
He said the baggage claim area is a “soft target.” The airport had initially reported an “incident” in the baggage claim area.
Nelson said a motive still hadn’t been determined.