A GUNMAN shot five people dead and wounded eight others after opening fire in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida last night. The attack sent panicked passengers running out of the terminal and on to the tarmac.
The shooter was arrested afterwards. Authorities said they were unsure if the incident was terror-related and gave no details on a possible motive. The attack took place inside Terminal 2, which serves Delta Air Lines and Air Canada.
Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner, said the gunman was a passenger on a Canadian flight and had checked in a gun with his baggage. He said the man pulled the gun from his bag, loaded it in a bathroom and then began shooting.
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One eyewitness, Mark Lea, said: “People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs. He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”
Lea said the 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”. He had a handgun and went through about three magazines of ammunition.
Lea said the gunman then threw down his weapon and lay spreadeagled on the ground until he was taken into custody.
Passenger John Schilcher said he heard gunshots as he picked up his luggage from a baggage claim carousel, and the person next to him fell to the ground. Other people started falling, and he dropped to the ground with his wife and mother-in-law. Schilcher said “the firing just went on and on” other than a pause as the gunman emptied and reloaded his weapon.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida claimed the shooter was carrying military ID in the name of Esteban Santiago, but that it was unclear whether it was his. “We don’t know a motive at this point,” Nelson said. “This could well be someone who is mentally deranged, or it could be someone who had a much more sinister motive than we have to worry about every day, and that is terrorism. We can’t conclude that.”
The airport suspended operations as law enforcement authorities rushed to the scene and emergency medical workers treated at least one bleeding victim on the tarmac.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident by his Homeland Security adviser. President-elect Donald Trump tweeted: “Monitoring the terrible situation in Florida. Thoughts and prayers for all.”