Published July 05, 2017
Five people are dead and a shooting suspect is in custody Friday after a lone gunman opened fire at a baggage claim area in Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, shooting some people in the head without saying a word, witnesses and investigators said.
The suspect, identified as Esteban Santiago, had served in the Alaska Army National Guard until August 2016 when he was given a "general discharge," the Guard's public affairs director Candis Olmsted confirmed to Fox News.
The suspect brought a gun in a checked bag on an Air Canada flight, officials said. "He claimed his bag and took the gun from baggage and went into the bathroom to load it. Came out shooting people in baggage claim," Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca wrote on Facebook.
A Canadian embassy spokeswoman clarified that the flight originated in Anchorage, Alaska, and continued to Ft. Lauderdale via Minneapolis, never landing in Canada. The TSA allows firearms in checked bags, but they must be unloaded, locked in a rigid container and declared before traveling.
Shots fired at Ft Lauderdale Airport, suspect reportedly in custody pic.twitter.com/o0zVdI91Um— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) January 6, 2017
Santiago was taken into custody without incident and was unhurt. Law enforcement never fired any shots, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. "This scene is considered fluid and active."
The shooting unfolded in Terminal 2, which serves serves Delta Air Lines and Air Canada. It was unclear why the suspect may have chosen to open fire, the sheriff added.
"The citizens of Florida will not tolerate senseless acts of evil," Gov. Rick Scott responded. "Whoever is responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of the law."
In the ensuing panic, the TSA received two separate, unconfirmed reports of a separate active shooter, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told Fox News. However, Israel said Friday afternoon there was no indication any additional shots were fired. Paramedics rushed eight people to hospitals.
"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, wearing a Star Wars T-shirt.
"He was shooting people that were down on the ground, too," Schlicher said.
While speaking to Shepard Smith live on Fox News, Schlicher said he heard crews ordering passengers to take cover amid the unconfirmed reports of more shots fired. He spoke over the phone while ducked down on the floor.
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.
The governor said he spoke to President-elect Donald Trump with updates, but did not speak to President Obama. The president was briefed on the shooting by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said.
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 be seen treating a bleeding victim outside the airport. Hundreds of people stood on the tarmac as an ambulance drove by.
Ari Fleischer, a former White House spokesman, was at the airport at the time of the shooting and tweeted that "everyone is running."
Jillian Saunders, from Palm Beach, Florida, told The Associated Press in direct Twitter messages that she was watching the activity from the tarmac in a plane scheduled to fly to Los Angeles.
"Everything you see on the news is happening outside my window," she said. "I am luckily on the plane and they said we are right now the safest people at the airport."
The office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott said state law enforcement have not confirmed a motive behind the shooting. Scott is traveling to the scene to be briefed by law enforcement.
The ATF was responding to the scene. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was monitoring the shooting and getting regular updates -- part of standard practice, a federal law enforcement source told Fox News.
The airport is the 21st busiest in the United States and serves 21 different airlines. Nearly 2.5 million people passed through the airport in November, according to a county government report.
Fox News' Phil Keating in Ft. Lauderdale, Matt Dean, Jennifer Griffin, Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.