What we know about the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting

Authorities on Saturday continue to hunt for a motive behind the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as more details about the incident emerge.

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Five people were killed and six injured amid the chaos, as terrified passengers ran before police apprehended the suspect without incident.

Here's what we know:

What happened?

The melee erupted around 1 p.m. ET, when a gunman opened fire on passengers at a baggage claim in Terminal 2. Witnesses, who described the shooter as a slender, 5-foot-7 male with a blue T-shirt, said the he did not say a word during the incident and emptied several magazines of bullets during the attack. The suspect then dropped to the floor spread-eagled to await arrest.

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said the shooter's gun was in his checked bag. After retrieving the bag, the alleged shooter went to the bathroom, loaded the firearm and started shooting, LaMarca tweeted.

George Piro, FBI special agent in charge of the agency's Miami division, said authorities have interviewed 175 witnesses and collected photos, video and other physical evidence.

 

 

 

Who is the suspect?

Law enforcement officials identified Esteban Santiago, 26, a former Army veteran, as the suspect behind the heinous attack and said he appears to have acted alone.

Santiago was taken into custody without incident by a Broward County sheriff's deputy. He was booked at a Broward County jail on a murder charge.

"Indications are that he came here to carry out this horrific attack. We have not identified any triggers that would've caused this attack," Piro said. "We are continuing to look at the terrorism angle as a potential motivation."

Born in New Jersey, Santiago served in both the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Alaska Army National Guard, according to Lt. Col. Candis A. Olmstead, director of public affairs for the Alaska National Guard.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale early Friday aboard a Delta flight that originated Thursday.

In November, Santiago appeared unannounced in the FBI offices in Anchorage, complaining that the Islamic State had gained control of his mind and was urging him to fight on its behalf.

The FBI conducted a background check, learning of his military record, which included service in Iraq, but found no connection to terror groups. Determining that the man apparently needed psychiatric care, the FBI alerted local law enforcement and turned him over to their custody for a medical referral. It is not clear whether Santiago received treatment following that incident.

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Who are the victims?

Authorities have identified the five dead and are notifying next of kin.

The names of these slain victims have been made public so far:

  • Olga Woltering of Georgia. She was a member of the Atlanta-area Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Cobb County, according to an Associated Pres report. Woltering and her husband flew to Fort Lauderdale for a cruise, church sources said.
  • Terry Andres, of Virginia. He was a volunteer support technician with the Oceana Volunteer Fire Department from April 2004 through 2010, said Art Kohn, spokesman for the Virginia Beach Fire Department.
  • Michael Oehme, 57, of Iowa, has been identified as one of the slain victims by his sister. Elizabeth Oehme-Miller also told the AP by phone Saturday that her brother's wife, 52-year-old Kari Oehme, was shot in the shoulder and is expected to recover. They flew to Fort Lauderdale to go on a cruise, she said.

Others' names will be released later. The number of injured was revised Saturday from eight to six. Three of the victims are in good condition and the others are in intensive care.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday morning that some of the survivors are “fighting for their lives."

Scott said he visited some of the victims in the hospital Friday evening. He talked to a couple who flew to Fort Lauderdale to go on a cruise. The wife was shot, and now they'll be going home instead. Another woman's husband was shot and was bleeding "profusely" form the arm, Scott said.

The shooting, Scott said, was a "hateful act."

“It was an absolutely horrific day,” he added. “The person responsible for this act will be brought to justice to the furthest extent of the law.”

How did a gun get through a checked bag?

Transportation Security Administration rules allow travelers to pack unloaded firearms in checked luggage, so long as passengers declare their weapons to the airline while checking in, and they are packed in a locked, hard-sided container.

Piro said Santiago followed TSA procedures by checking the weapon. The strict protocols involve showing the weapon and its carrying case to an airline ticket agent, who then checks that the gun is unloaded. Ammunition may also be carried in checked baggage but must be stored separately from the gun, said David Williams, assistant professor of aerospace and occupational safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

If the high-tech baggage screening behind the scenes detects a gun that hasn't been declared, "that gun will be set aside. It will not get on the airplane. And, a law enforcement officer will find and arrest you," Williams said.

Is the airport open?

The airport reopened at 5 a.m. Saturday. It had been shut down for 16 hours following the attacked. The scene of the attack, Terminal 2, remained an active crime scene Saturday morning.

The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport handles about 586 commercial flights daily, according to Flight Aware, a flight tracking website. As of 9:30 a.m., about a quarter of those flights scheduled to depart from the airport had been canceled and another 17 were delayed. JetBlue, which had several cancellations, announced it would resume operations at 10 a.m.

USA TODAY


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