The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has no special features that made it more or less vulnerable to a baggage-claim area attack, a federal law enforcement official tells PEOPLE.
“It was an everyday target,” says the source when asked to offer insights into alleged gunman Esteban Santiago’s attack at this particular airport. Santiago is accused of killing five people and wounding six after he retrieved a legal firearm he had properly checked from the baggage claim-area and began opening fire.
“If you’re looking for airport-specific vulnerabilities, you won’t find anything that stands out with this particular site,” the source said. The official is not authorized to talk to the press, and spoke to PEOPLE on the condition of anonymity. The official has direct knowledge of the investigation.
Santiago was apprehended by a sheriff’s deputy and taken into custody without incident, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday press conference. On Saturday, Israel confirmed that Santiago had been interviewed by the FBI and would remain in custody.
The shootings took place in the baggage claim section of Terminal 2, according to eyewitness reports and local officials. Terminal 2, serving Delta Airlines, is one of four terminals at the airport. The terminal buildings are arranged in a three-quarter semicircle — a sideways “J” shape — around two parking garages. Four rental car offices are situated to the right of the “J.”
Many questions surround the incident — among them, how an apparently lone gunman navigated the airport to carryout his apparently pre-meditated murderous plan.
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“He didn’t have to do much,” the official says. “He checked his weapon according to procedure. He boarded the airplane, and got off when it landed. Then he just went to the baggage claim section.”
From there, the shooter collected his checked luggage, which contained a weapon and ammunition, the official says.
“No airport in the country has checkpoints at baggage claim,” the official says. “This one was no different.”
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Government watchdogs investigated airport vulnerabilities last year. The investigation resulted in a report issued in May 2016 by the Government Accountability Office, an independent agency that works for Congress.
The report, which concluded that airports nationwide would benefit from greater attention to security, addressed primarily an insider threat: “the potential of rogue aviation workers exploiting their credentials, access, and knowledge of security procedures throughout the airport for personal gain or to inflict damage.”
Baggage claim shootings were not addressed in the report.
“Until now, that hasn’t popped up on the radar here in any significant way,” the official tells PEOPLE.
“This could have happened anywhere.”