Witness to Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shooting Describes 'Panic': 'It Was Really, Really Scary'
Stephanie Auclair was standing outside a restaurant in the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, about to order food, when she heard distant screaming. She looked in the direction of the frenzied noise and immediately realized something was terribly wrong.
“I saw this wave of people just running towards me,” recalls Auclair, who was at the airport with her parents after a week’s vacation in Florida, waiting for a flight back to Montréal.
Next came shouts of “Shooter! Shooter!,” she tells PEOPLE.
“It was really, really scary,” Auclair says. “When you see a bunch of people running towards you, screaming, ‘Shooter! Shooter!,’ and then you start hearing the shots … it stops your heart.”
Shortly before 1 p.m. local time, five people were fatally shot inside the airport by a lone gunman. Another 13 people were injured by gunfire, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief told CNN.
The sounds of the shots sent Auclair and her parents running for the restaurant’s kitchen. “I was shaking. I was too in shock to cry. We had no idea where it was coming from,” she explains. “I wanted to get out of there. I knew the menace was close by.”
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Eventually, Auclair and others found a stairwell, which lead to the airport’s tarmac.
Authorities have taken a suspect into custody, PEOPLE confirms. Auclair claims she got a brief look at the shooter as he was being carried off in handcuffs.
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.”
“We eventually made our way outside and then, ten minutes later, the same door we came out of opens, with two securiyy guards and the shooter,” she tells PEOPLE. “He was a skinny guy. He seemed to be very young…. He was just letting himself be dragged by the police.”
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Auclair and her parents had spent the previous week in Florida taking in the warm weather. They arrived at the airport to learn their flight would be delayed at least seven hours.
“Our day went from bad to worse,” Auclair says. “People left their stuff inside and just ran. It was a total panic. I’m still in shock … it’s an experience I never thought I’d have. You see it on the news when it happens, but living it … hearing the gun shots? It’s much different.”