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Crime

5 Dead, At Least 6 Injured in Shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport, Suspect in Custody

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Five people have been killed and at least six people were injured in a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday, authorities confirm.

The Broward County Sheriff confirmed via Twitter that multiple people have been killed and the suspect is in custody. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief told CNN that 13 people were transported to local hospitals.

Just before 3 p.m., the Sheriff tweeted that an “active search” was underway at the airport due to “unconfirmed reports of addt’l shots fired on airport property” after the initial incident. Authorities confirmed later that there was no second attack.

A federal law enforcement official tells PEOPLE the suspect is Esteban Santiago, 26. He is of Puerto Rican descent. He arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Friday, on a Delta red-eye flight originating from Anchorage via Minneapolis, with checked baggage containing a firearm.

He picked up the checked firearm at baggage claim, before allegedly going to the bathroom, gathering his weapon and changing into a Star Wars shirt. He then exited the bathroom and allegedly began firing at those around the baggage carousel. Santiago had a military ID on him when he was taken into police custody.

The shooter was discharged from the Army last last year on a general discharge, the official says.

The suspect was apprehended by a Broward County sheriff’s deputy and taken into custody without incident, Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday press conference. Israel added that the gunman, who wasn’t hit by gunfire, is being interviewed by FBI agents and Broward County sheriff’s deputies.

The shooting took place in Terminal 2 in the baggage claim area, outside the TSA checkpoint, police say. Air Canada and Delta Airlines operate out of Terminal 2. Police tell PEOPLE, however, that Terminal 1 was also evacuated around 2:30 p.m.

People have been corralled onto the tarmac and paramedics are on the scene, police say.

All services at the airport have been temporarily suspended, the airport tweeted.

Agencies on the scene include Fort Lauderdale Police, Hollywood Police, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the TSA, the ATF, and the FBI. The Florida Highway Patrol is directing traffic.

A federal law enforcement source tells PEOPLE there have been 11 Active Shooter Preparedness Workshops conducted in Florida, although none of them in Fort Lauderdale.

In an interview with CNN, Mayor Sharief said the shooter acted alone and that there is no evidence of a partner.

She said, “At this time we do not have a motive, but we are actively investigating that.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wrote on social media, “I am on my way to Fort Lauderdale International Airport to be briefed by law enforcement.”

NSC spokesperson Ned Price tells PEOPLE, “The President was apprised this afternoon by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco of the shooting at Fort Lauderdale airport and will be kept updated as the investigation unfolds.”

AP Photo/Alan Diaz

Eyewitness: ‘It Stops Your Heart’

Stephanie Auclair, who was with her parents at the airport after a week’s vacation in Florida, tells PEOPLE, “When you see a bunch of people running toward you, screaming, ‘Shooter! Shooter,’ it stops your heart.”

She says she was with her parents and they hid in the kitchen of an airport restaurant before being moved to a stairwell. “We tried using the tables in the restaurant as shields. We were not sure where to go or where he was coming from. We were not sure where to hide,” she says.

She adds, “People left there stuff inside and just ran. It was a total panic. It was scary but now we’re safe. We are just waiting.”

Lynne Sladky/AP
Lynne Sladky/AP

Auclair says she got a first-hand look at the shooter being led by two security guards in handcuffs.

“The shooter was very skinny. He seemed to be very young… He was just letting himself be dragged by the police. It was scary,” she says.

Ari Fleischer, Former White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush, was also at the airport. He tweeted, “I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running.”

He added a few minutes later, “The police said there is one shooter and five victims.”

“All seems calm now but the police aren’t letting anyone out of the airport – at least not the area where I am,” Fleischer tweeted.

More than 325 departure and 325 arrival flights come in and out of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport a day, according to the airport’s website. Over 73,000 travelers are at the airport on a daily basis.

This is a breaking news story, please check back for updates.

  • Reporting by CHRIS HARRIS and SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL