FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Five people were killed, and eight more were injured, when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Friday.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported from Fort Lauderdale, the shooting was reported just before 1 p.m. Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, which is used by Delta Airlines and Air Canada.
Witnesses said the gunman was shooting people at will.
“He was not targeting,” said witness Mark Lea. “He was just randomly shooting. He was like he was walking through the woods. He was just picking off like target practice.”
The suspected gunman was arrested without incident after the shooting and was in police custody Friday night. Sources said there was no nexus to terrorism with the shooter, but terrorism has not been ruled out as a motive.
Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner, said the shooter was a passenger on a Air Canada flight and was traveling with a checked gun.
“After he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” LaMarca said.
But Air Canada said they have no record of a passenger by that name or anyone checking guns on any flight.
The suspect, who was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, was born in New Jersey, law enforcement sources told CBS News. Santiago-Ruiz spent most of his time in Puerto Rico before going to Anchorage, Alaska.
Upon his arrest, the suspect was unharmed and law enforcement did not fire any shots, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. He was in custody being questioned by the FBI and sheriff’s deputies.
Santiago-Ruiz will be charged federally and is expected to appear in court in South Florida on Monday.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said the suspect was carrying a military ID.
He deployed to Iraq in 2010, and served in the National Guard in Alaska until he was discharged for unsatisfactory performance last year, CBS News reported.
The gunman was also reportedly wearing ‘Star Wars’ shirt at the time of the shooting, CBS Miami reported.
A motive for the shooting is not known, but investigators said there was no nexus to terrorism. But FBI Miami Special Agent-in-Charge George Piro said late Friday night said terrorism had not been ruled out as a possible motive.
“We’re not ruling out anything. We’re looking at every angle, including the terrorism angle, but it’s going to take us some time to determine the true nature of the motive of the individual,” Piro said.
Federal law enforcement sources said the gunman got into a quarrel on one leg of his travel from Alaska to Florida.
Law enforcement sources told CBS News he traveled from Alaska to Minnesota and then from Minnesota to Florida. The second leg of the trip was on a Delta flight.
The gunman’s motive remained under investigation late Friday, but authorities were looking into whether the quarrel on the plane sparked the shooting in Fort Lauderdale.
Sources told CBS News a man meeting Santiago-Ruiz’s description, and who is believed to have been Santiago-Ruiz, walked into FBI offices in Anchorage two months ago and said the government was forcing him to watch ISIS videos. Agents were apparently so concerned about him they took him to a mental health facility, CBS News’ Scott Pelley reported.
The Associated Press reported Santiago-Ruiz’s brother, Bryan, said the accused shooter was receiving psychological treatment in Alaska.
Police late Friday released a photo of the gun that the shooter was believed to have used.
It is legal for airline passengers to carry guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag – not in a carry-on – and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.
The shooting led to pandemonium at the airport.
Just before 3 p.m., deputies could be seen at the airport running with their weapons drawn, as some travelers ran from a parking garage and hid behind cars. The sheriff’s office said there was an active search following unconfirmed reports of additional shots on airport property.
“The only gunshots fired at any time during this horrific incident have been downstairs in Terminal 2,” Israel said.
There was also a bag near a set of nearby railroad tracks that was detonated, but it turned out not to be connected to the gunman, CBS News reported.
As SWAT teams evacuated Terminal 2, hundreds of frightened passengers were sent running onto the tarmac, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported.
“My family is in Terminal 2,” a witness said. “I was waiting at the rental car place and I saw people running from Terminal 2 and lady screaming for help, and I just ran.”
Traveler Ava Davis believes she witnessed SantiagoRuiz’s takedown.
“I saw the two police officers knock a person down and tussle with him and handcuff him and put him up against the wall,” Davis said.
Not long after police reopened Terminal 2, passengers ran back outside sheltering behind luggage trolleys.
“The second time, we just saw people running and security running again and telling us to run outside,” said witness Judah Fernandez, “and I think people are just freaked out right now.”
Minutes later, airport officials announced they were suspending operations at the airport.
Eyewitness Mike Starobinsky, of Pontiac, Michigan, was on the main level of Terminal 2 when gunfire erupted.
“I hear a popping noise, and somebody says ‘shots fire, shots fired!’” he told CBS News. “A man was bleeding with a woman right next to him and she was just saying ‘help.’”
Video from the airport showed passengers walking on the tarmac after being let off planes.
“People yelling, people screaming, everyone in a big pack just running as far as possible away from the shots. Our bus driver wasn’t sure what was going on, he was asking, ‘What’s happening? What’s going on?’ But no one was answering because everyone was in a rush to get safe,” said a traveler named Ben who was at the airport grabbing a shuttle when the shooting happened.
One passenger told CNN by phone that his computer saved his life.
“I felt something hit my back,” he said. “It was only later when I went to the bathroom to check myself out that the bullet had hit my laptop, and then later when I gave my bag over to the FBI for investigation, they found the bullet in the pocket of my backpack.”
Former White House Press Secretary Air Fleischer was also at the airport at the time of the incident.
“I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running,” he wrote on Twitter.
About 15 minutes later, Fleischer wrote, “All seems calm now but the police aren’t letting anyone out of the airport – at least not the area where I am.”
The airport, which is about 30 miles north of Miami, suspended operations after the shooting. Travelers were told to contact their air carrier for flight information.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for flights around the country that are destined for the airport. Flights did not arrive or depart from Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport following the shooting.
Several flights were diverted to other South Florida airports.
For after the shooting well into the night, numerous people ended up stuck on planes. Authorities bussed a number of people estimated in the thousands from airplanes and the baggage claim area Port Everglades Cruise Terminal 4, Israel said.
Israel urged people to not call 911 for information about the shooting. Facebook enabled its safety check feature so users could report their status on the social media platform.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said authorities were working hard to keep Floridians safe and hold the gunman accountable.
“My heart goes out to every family impacted. The families that lost their loved ones, and the individuals that still have loved ones the hospital fighting for their live,” Scott said. “You can’t imagine how this could happen to any family anywhere in the world, but clearly, we don’t want this to happen in our great state.”
Scott said he had talked with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, but not with President Barack Obama. He said Trump and Pence had told him “whatever resources that we need from the federal government, they would do everything in their power to make that happen.”
“My number one priority right here, right now in Florida is to keep everybody safe – everybody that lives in our state, everybody that travels to a state – do everything we can to keep them safe,” Scott said.
He called the shooting “a senseless act of evil.”
Scott told CBS News’ Vladimir Duthiers Friday night that his office was doing everything he could to help those who remained hospitalized.
“I’m praying that we do not lose another life,” he said. “Five lives is too many, and I wouldn’t want to lose another life.”
Trump also issued a tweet Friday afternoon in reaction to the massacre.
Pence also offered condolences to the victims and praised Scott’s leadership.
“The hearts of every American are in Fort Lauderdale tonight. The president-elect and I send our prayers and our thoughts to the victims of this attack, to their families, to the courageous first responders, and to all the citizens of the Fort Lauderdale area,” Pence said. “It’s a very challenging time, and we just hung up from our latest conversation with Gov. Rick Scott. He has briefed the president-elect and myself several times, and we’re grateful for his leadership.”
President Obama was briefed by his homeland security adviser, the White House said.
Air Canada said in a statement that passengers from its departing flights were safely evacuated onto the tarmac, while two arriving flights from Montreal and Toronto were held off at the gate. The airline also implemented a rebooking policy for passengers traveling Friday or Saturday.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event that occurred at Fort Lauderdale Airport Terminal 2 today,” spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
Delta said flights were not arriving or departing from the airport at Fort Lauderdale, and several flights had been diverted elsewhere.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Delta family are with the people of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, and those involved in the tragic events today,” Delta chief executive officer Ed Bastian said in a statement.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting in the investigation.
The NYPD said it is monitoring the situation in Florida.
The airport in Fort Lauderdale was set to reopen at 5 a.m. Saturday, but it might not be business as usual given the number of aircraft out of place and the number of stranded passengers to accommodate.
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