FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has reopened following the terminal shooting that left five people dead and six more wounded.
Officials said on Twitter the airport reopened for commercial flights at 5 a.m. Saturday, although many flights are canceled or delayed. Local media reported long lines of passengers were forming outside terminals.
Terminal 2 remained closed Saturday morning. That’s where police say 26-year-old Esteban Santiago-Ruiz allegedly opened fire in a baggage claim area after retrieving a handgun from his checked luggage. Santiago-Ruiz remained jailed pending official charges.
Airport officials also say they are trying to match more than 20,000 bags and personal items with their owners. Authorities say it is a complex and time-consuming process.
“We’re in the process of cataloging all of those items, protecting it, securing it so that we can get it back to its rightful owner as soon as we possibly can,” airport director Mark Gale said.
Officials said Saturday at a news conference with Gov. Rick Scott that one of the six gunshot victims brought to Broward Health Medical Center was well enough for release. Scott said three are still in intensive care.
CBS2 learned Saturday that one of the victims who died was from New Jersey. Terry Andres, of Virginia Beach, was on vacation with his wife for his 63rd birthday.
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.
Santiago-Ruiz was charged with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death — which carries a maximum punishment of execution — and weapons charges.
“Today’s charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors,” U.S Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said.
During a Saturday news conference, authorities said that they had interviewed roughly 175 people, including a lengthy interrogation with the cooperative suspect.
FBI Agent George Piro said Santiago-Ruiz spoke to investigators for several hours after he opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun that he appears to have legally checked on a flight from Alaska.
But Air Canada said they have no record of a passenger by that name or anyone checking guns on any flight.
“Indications are that he came here to carry out this horrific attack,” Piro said. “We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack. We’re pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack.”
In November, Santiago-Ruiz had walked into an FBI field office in Alaska saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, authorities said.
“He was a walk-in complaint. This is something that happens at FBI offices around the country every day,” FBI agent Marlin Ritzman said. “He broke no laws when he came into our office making disjointed comments about mind control.”
Santiago-Ruiz had a loaded magazine on him, but had left a gun in his vehicle, along with his newborn child, authorities said. Officers seized the weapon and local officers took him to get a mental health evaluation. His girlfriend picked up the child.
On Dec. 8, the gun was returned to Santiago-Ruiz. Authorities wouldn’t say if it was the same gun used in the airport attack.
U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said Santiago-Ruiz would have been able to legally possess a gun because he had not been judged mentally ill, which is a higher standard than having an evaluation.
Santiago-Ruiz had not been placed on the U.S. no-fly list and appears to have acted alone, authorities said.
“There have been questions raised about why Mr. Santiago was not placed on a no-fly list. I want to be clear, during our initial investigation, we found no ties to terrorism,” Ritzman said.
Santiago-Ruiz, was born in New Jersey but 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.
Bryan Santiago said Saturday that his brother had requested psychological help but received little assistance. Esteban Santiago-Ruiz said in August that he was hearing voices.
“How is it possible that the federal government knows, they hospitalize him for only four days, and then give him his weapon back?” Bryan Santiago said.
His mother declined to comment as she stood inside the screen door of the family home in Puerto Rico, wiping tears from her eyes. The only thing she said was that Esteban Santiago-Ruiz had been tremendously affected by seeing a bomb explode next to two of his friends when he was around 18 years old while serving in Iraq.
The gunman was also reportedly wearing ‘Star Wars’ shirt at the time of the shooting, CBS Miami reported.
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.
Police late Friday released a photo of the gun that Santiago-Ruiz 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. Friday, 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 Santiago-Ruiz’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.”
Gov. 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.
“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.
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