comscore 5 dead, 8 injured in shooting at Florida airport | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

5 dead, 8 injured in shooting at Florida airport

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A shooting victim was unloaded from an emergency vehicle and taken to Broward Health Trauma Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. today. Authorities said multiple people have died after a lone suspect opened fire at the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, international airport.

  • GOOGLE MAPS

    Ft. Lauderdale International Airport

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. >> An Army veteran who complained that the government was controlling his mind drew a gun from his checked luggage on arrival at the Fort Lauderdale airport and opened fire in the baggage claim area today, killing five people and wounding eight, authorities said.

He was taken into custody after throwing his empty weapon down and lying spread-eagle on the ground, one witness said.

“People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs,” the witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”

The gunman was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, who served in Iraq with the National Guard but was demoted and discharged last year for unsatisfactory performance. His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Santiago had walked into the FBI office in Anchorage in November to say that the U.S. government was controlling his mind and making him watch Islamic State videos.

Agents questioned an agitated and disjointed-sounding Santiago and then called police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

FBI agent George Piro, who is in charge of the Miami field office, confirmed that Santiago had come into the Anchorage office and clearly indicated at the time that he was not intent on hurting anyone.

Authorities said the motive for the attack was under investigation. Shortly after the shooting, and before details of Santiago’s mental health became public, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said that it remained to be seen whether it was terrorism or the work of “someone who is mentally deranged.”

Piro said authorities are looking at leads in several states and have not ruled out terrorism. “We’re looking at every angle, including the terrorism angle,” he said

Santiago, who is in federal custody, will face federal charges and is expected to appear in court Monday, Piro said.

One witness said the attacker gunned down his victims without a word and kept shooting until he ran out of ammunition for his handgun, sending panicked travelers running out of the terminal and spilling onto the tarmac, baggage in hand.

Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen.

Bruce Hugon, who had flown in from Indianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage carousel when he heard four or five pops and saw everyone drop down on the ground. He said a woman next to him tried to get up and was shot in the head.

“The guy must have been standing over me at one point. I could smell the gunpowder,” he said. “I thought I was about to feel a piercing pain or nothing at all because I would have been dead.”

It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag — not a carry-on — and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only one piece of luggage — his gun, said Jesse Davis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.

At Fort Lauderdale, “after he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” said Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed by investigators.

The bloodshed is likely to raise questions of whether aviation safety officials need to change the rules.

The attack also exposed another weak point in airport security: While travelers have to take off their shoes, put their carry-on luggage through X-ray machines and pass through metal detectors to reach the gates, many other sections of airports, such as ticket counters and baggage claim areas, are more lightly secured and more vulnerable to attack.

In 2013, a gunman with a grudge against the Transportation Security Administration shot and killed one of the agency’s screeners and wounded three others during a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport. Last November, an airline worker was shot and killed near an employee parking lot at Oklahoma City’s airport, and in 2015 a machete-wielding man was shot to death after he attacked federal security officers at the New Orleans airport.

“The fact is that wherever there are crowds, such as at our airports, we remain vulnerable to these types of attacks,” Nelson said.

The Fort Lauderdale 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,” according to Lea. The killer went through about three magazines before running out of ammunition, Lea said.

“He threw the gun down and laid spread-eagle on the ground until the officer came up to him,” Lea said.

The gunman was arrested unharmed, with no shots fired by law enforcement officers, and was being questioned by the FBI, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 30 to 40 people were injured — scrapes, bruises and broken bones — after the shooting.

The condition of the wounded was not disclosed. At least one of the victims was seen lying in a pool of blood with what appeared to be a head wound.

The airport was shut down, with incoming flights diverted and outgoing flights held on the ground. Airport Director Mark Gale said it will try to reopen at 5 a.m. Saturday but urged travelers to check with their individual airlines on flight status. He said 10,000 of the airport’s stranded travelers were being bused overnight to the city’s spacious Port Everglades cruise ship terminal.

President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said. President-elect Donald Trump said that it is a “disgraceful situation that’s happening in our country and throughout the world” and that it was too soon to say whether it was a terrorist attack.

Santiago’s brother, Bryan, told the AP that his brother had been receiving psychological treatment in Alaska. He said Santiago’s girlfriend alerted the family to the situation in recent months. Bryan Santiago said that he didn’t know what his brother was being treated for and that they never talked about it.

He said Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey and moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2. He was sent to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, according to Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen. He later joined the Alaska National Guard.

The Pentagon said Santiago had gone AWOL several times during his stint with the Alaska National Guard and was demoted — from specialist to private first class — and given a general discharge, which is lower than an honorable discharge.

John Schilcher told Fox News 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.”

“I was down on the floor. When we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me,” he said. “That’s when I assumed it was safe.”

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments (53)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • Obama no terrors attacks on US soil since you been in office?. There were many but you were to stupid and vane to admit them so they gave you one.

  • Meanwhile, Barry Soetoro and his wife are holed up in his office, chain-smoking cigarettes and hoping like holy hell that the shooter is a white Trump supporter.

    A very tragic yet, unfortunately, fitting end to a disastrous failure of a presidency. Yet another Muslim terrorist attack on American soil. That’s Barry’s real legacy now–he made America weak and our citizen’s are paying the price for his ideologies and incompetency.

    Rest easy, America. Our nation is coming back in exactly two weeks.

  • Now people are politicizing everything. The biggest question people can’t wait to be answered so they can push their agenda is whether the shooter looked like Obama’s son, Trump’s son, or Bin Laden’s son.

    • Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! He difinitely does not “look” Japanese,so you don’t have to worry Mori. The Daily Mail (w/pics)first broke this story. Why so Long SA?

      • IT OCCURS TO THE NEUTRAL OBSERVER THAT MORE PEOPLE WITH HISPANIC NAMES COMMIT CRIMES OF SENSELESS IRE THAN PEOPLE WITH JAPANESE OR NORTHERN EUROPEAN NAMES.

        • Nooo, you don’t say! LOL

          40+ million illegal criminals illegally residing in the USA and dropping off millions of anchor babies with 95% of them being Mexican all breaking immigration laws including but not limited to: labors laws, tax evasion, identity theft, drug smuggling, gang activity, etc.

  • Tactic appears to be similar to the Lod airport attack in 1972. Terrorist were 3 Japanese Red Army members recruited by the Palestinians. Guns were in checked baggage, came from France, terrorist came in on another flight recovered baggage and guns, then attacked.

    • You remember all the details of an unfortunate incident that happened almost fifty years ago. Were you there? Some people are lucky if they can remember what they had for breakfast yesterday. By the way…where is Lod? Poland?

    • Sure. What would make more sense than mass murder of the mentally ill?

      I’m comforted by the fact that you will obviously never be in a decision making position. Anywhere, ever.

      • Most mentally ill can not be cured. It’s a waste to keep them caged in and on pills for the rest of their miserable lives. Letting them lose on the streets, well that’s even worse. Just look at yourself Klastri, aren’t you miserable everyday? Didn’t you want to drink the Kool-Aid laced with anti-freeze after your saint HitLIARy never thanked you for the good deeds you’ve done for her? You poor thing, best you call HitLIARy on the phone and request that she comfort you and assist you with legally assisted suicide. I promise you Klastri, you’ll be in a better place than having to read Trump’s tweets every morning at 3am!

        • You wait for the 3 am tweets dragin? A fresh dose of trumpf s Goo Aid hits your face every morning. Then you craw and suck up to get another shot? Lol.

  • Soldier in Army…Living in Alaska…Trump promised a BIG shake up today…happens same day that Russia hacking announcement??? Palin does love Trump and would do anything to prove herself…Paid shooter by incoming President??? #MAGA

  • The guy was recently given a “general” discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard. Warning signs right there for getting a general discharge vs honorable discharge.

    • Yeah but you can get a general discharge for a lot of reasons. Perhaps the bigger red flag is when you walk into an FBI office and say the government is controlling your mind and making you watch Islamic State videos.

      • The Kenyan Muslin anchor baby will attempt to pardon his brother before departing the presidency. I bet the FBI was told by Barry Boy to disregard any action when this nut job walked in to the field office complaining of ISIS in his head.

  • SA only has a small number of regular contributors to the comment section but the comments are consistently the most broadly obnoxious of any newspaper I have read.

    Yotare, you are disgusting!

  • So much for TSA and their terrorist profiling. Total fail. More reason to disband TSA. Bet they were agitating elderly ladies for pat downs in the screening lines upstairs when all this took place.

  • wrong it was Islamic terrorist muslims who took him to a mosque brainwashed him with Islamic video not the military, and indoctrinated him to kill Americans, another terrorist attack on America.

  • He was right at the age for onset of schizophrenia and possibly the trauma of being in a war zone was the tipping point where the stress set off the probable predisposed cascade of mental illness. Were there warning signs leading up to this, such as hearing voices and questionable judgement/delusional thinking? Should he have even been serving in the military? Did they discharge him knowing he was probably mentally ill, but took no responsibility to get him help? The investigation will clarify this.

    Why is it that quite often the shooter was already know to authorities but was able to go on his way until this tragedy because his already establish pathology was considered benign or someone is judged not to really be a terrorist despite evidence of radical indoctrination? Personal rights to this level are literally killing us! Just like an air accident, it is a series of cascading failures that ultimately result in disaster.

  • It appears now that the shooter was schizo. I have always maintained such schizophrenics are dangerous and should not be allowed to run free. Most of the time that do not use weapons, that’s why you don’t hear so much about it. But there have been several killings by schizos even in Hawaii in recent years.

Scroll Up