FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Panic erupted as a homicidal suspect opened fire in the baggage claim area at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport today.
The situation is fluid, but it appears the entire airport is locked down and being cleared by hundreds of law enforcement personnel from state, county, and federal agencies. There is much that is unknown, but the suspect has been identified as Esteban Santiago, 26.
He reportedly flew into the airport, retrieved a handgun from his luggage in terminal two baggage claim, went to a restroom where he loaded the firearm, and came out shooting about 1:00 p.m. local time. Reports have him hitting 13 victims, killing five. Witnesses told various news agencies that the suspect was shooting people in the head.
The shooting created pandemonium, sending passengers running onto the tarmac where they remained for hours.
When law enforcement officers confronted Santiago, he surrendered without incident. The gunman apparently got down on the ground and waited for police to arrive after he ran out of bullets, a witness told CBS News. He is being questioned as the airport continues to be cleared for secondary issues.
“The gunman is in custody and unharmed,” the Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, said at a news conference, adding that the man was being interviewed by F.B.I. agents and county investigators. The injured were taken to a hospital.
A short time after the suspect was in custody, there appeared to be various false alarms of additional shootings that required law enforcement to completely seal off the airport for clearing, which will likely last some time. These episodes sent more passengers fleeing onto the tarmac.
Fox News reported that Santiago has military ties, possibly with the Army National Guard in Alaska. He was given a general discharge in August 2016.
Fox news reported that family members said Santiago served in the Middle East, and has suffered emotionally since his return.
When news accounts postulated about Santiago’s origin, a Canadian embassy spokeswoman clarified that the flight originated in Anchorage, Alaska, and continued to Ft. Lauderdale via Minneapolis, never landing in Canada.
“It was very surreal,” John Schlicher, a witness, told Fox News. “He did not say a word.” He described the shooter as a slender man with dark hair, likely in his 30s, wearing a Star Wars T-shirt.
At the time of this report, the airport is still being cleared by authorities, and new revelations will flow to news outlets as they become known.
She said that her nephew was raised in Puerto Rico, and returned to the island when he returned from the Middle East and was hospitalized for mental problems.
Ruiz told the newspaper that he had recently been working a security job in Alaska, became a father last year and “seemed fine” when he spent time in Union City over the holidays.
His brother Bryan told NBC that the suspect was still receiving mental treatment in his new home and owned a handgun.