5 dead, 8 injured in shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Commissioner says shooter removed gun from luggage, opened fire at baggage claim

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor , Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter , Glenna Milberg - Reporter , Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter , Eric Yutzy - Anchor/Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Five people are dead and eight others were injured after a shooting Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and reports of a possible second shooter were unconfirmed, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Scott Israel said the gunman was not injured and was taken into custody without incident.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., identified the shooter as Esteban Santiago. Nelson said the 26-year-old was carrying a military identification. 

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, whose district includes the airport, said the shooter was a passenger on a Canadian flight who had a checked gun in his luggage. LaMarca said the shooter claimed his bag, took out the gun, loaded it in a bathroom and came out firing.

"The suspect did not fly from Canada and was not on a Canadian flight," a statement from the Canadian Embassy said. "We understand from officials he was on a flight originating in Anchorage, transiting through Minneapolis and landing in Fort Lauderdale. There is no Canadian connection."

Local 10 News reporter Jeff Weinsier was reporting live from the airport when deputies and other law enforcement armed with guns converged upon a parking garage and yelled at someone, "Hands up."

Weinsier said reporters were told to get down and then moved to another area.

However, Israel said there was nothing to substantiate reports of a second shooting at the airport.

"At this point, there's no second active shooter," Israel said.

Israel said it's too early to tell whether the shooting was an act of terrorism.

A pilot who was a passenger on a flight at the airport said he heard what sounded like gunshots and witnessed a man with his hands up being chased by deputies shortly after the shooting in the baggage claim.

"I don't necessarily agree with the sheriff," he told Local 10 News. "Maybe he knows more than I do."

Israel said the suspect was at undisclosed location at the airport being interviewed by detectives and the FBI. The sheriff said he believes the shooter was a "home-grown violent extremist."

Sky 10 was above the airport shortly after 1 p.m. as passengers were standing on the tarmac outside Terminal 2. The airport's official Twitter page said there was "an ongoing incident" at the Terminal 2 baggage claim.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was at the airport at the time of the shooting. He took to Twitter to say that shots had been fired.

"Everyone is running," Fleischer said.

Passengers from all terminals were moved to the tarmac to be searched by authorities.

A man who was near the baggage claim told Local 10 he heard four shots and then saw everyone scatter.

"People started running for their lives," he said. "I got separated from my wife and my daughters."

The man said he returned to the terminal to look for them, but it was empty.

"There was not a soul, just suitcases and shoes," he said.

The man was eventually reunited with his family.

All services at the airport have been suspended, and the airport's director said he doesn't know when operations will resume. Traffic to the airport was being diverted, and a BSO armored vehicle was blocking the ramp from Interstate 595.

The Federal Aviation Administration said flights within about 50 miles of Fort Lauderdale were allowed to land at the airport. Other airborne flights were being diverted to other airports, while flights scheduled to depart for Fort Lauderdale were being held on the ground at their airports of origin.

Dr. Ralph Guarneri, a trauma surgeon at Broward Health Medical Center, said none of the victims who were taken to the hospital have died. He said only two of the five trauma victims underwent surgery.

Guarneri said the trauma surgeons have trained for mass casualty incidents and worked together as a team.

"The whole system worked very well today," Guarneri said.

According to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Santiago was honorably discharged from the Army National Guard last year. 

Residents of a Naples community where Santiago once lived told Local 10 News that the New Jersey native moved in 2012.

Santiago was charged with assault and criminal mischief in Anchorage, Alaska, but the assault charge was later dismissed. He is due in court in March on the criminal mischief charge.

Gov. Rick Scott said Florida residents won't tolerate "senseless acts of evil" and vowed to hold the shooter responsible to the fullest extent of the law.

"I don't ever want this to happen again," Scott said.

President-elect Donald Trump said on Twitter that he was "monitoring the terrible situation in Florida" and had been in communication with Scott.

Scott said he hadn't spoken to President Barack Obama, but he had spoken to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence several times.

A hotline was established for friends and family of travelers to and from Fort Lauderdale. Anyone seeking information was asked to call 866-435-9355.

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