Airport gunman sent passengers into a panic on the flight for life

  • The police guard at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A gunman opened fire in the baggage claim area at the airport Friday, killing several people and injuring others before they are taken into custody in an attack that panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, authorities said. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    (Associated Press)

  • Law enforcement officials walk around Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A gunman opened fire in the baggage claim area at the airport Friday, killing several people and injuring others before they are taken into custody in an attack that panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, authorities said. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

    (Associated Press)

  • People stand on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a gunman opened fire in a terminal of the airport, killing several people and injuring others before they are taken into custody, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    (Associated Press)


FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. Without a word, the gunman moved through the baggage claim picking off passengers until his gun ran out of ammunition, leaving five dead and eight injured in Fort Lauderdale airport.

Panicked witness ran out of the terminal and spilled onto the tarmac, luggage in hand. Others hid in the bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as the police and ambulance rushed on Friday to help the injured and to determine whether there were any other shooters.

Authorities say an Army veteran who complained that the government has the control over his head and pulled a gun out of his checked baggage on arrival and opened fire on fellow travelers.

Bruce Hugon, who were flown in from Indianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage carousel when he heard four or five explosions and saw everyone drop to the ground. He said a woman next to him tried to stand and was shot in the head.

“The man must have stood over me at one point. I could smell the scent of the gunpowder,” he said. “I thought I felt a piercing pain or nothing at all, because I would have been dead.”

The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, who served in Iraq with the National Guard, but was demoted and discharged last year for unsatisfactory performance. His brother said that he had received psychological treatment for short.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Santiago had walked into the FBI office in amsterdam in November to say that the U.S. government was controlling his mind and him watching Islamic State videos.

Agents questioned an agitated and incoherent-sounding Santiago and then called the police, who take him for a mental health evaluation, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

FBI agent George Piro, who is in charge of the Miami field office, confirmed that Santiago had come into the Anchorage office and he said that it is clearly stated at the time that he does not have the intention to hurt anyone.

Piro said authorities are looking for leads in several states and have not ruled out terrorism. “We are looking in every corner, including the terrorism angle,” he said

Santiago, who is in federal custody, will face federal charges and is expected to appear in court Monday, Piro said.

It is legal to use the plane to travel with guns and ammo as long as the firearms in a checked bag — not a carry-on, and unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after takeoff from Anchorage on board a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only one piece of luggage — his gun, said Jesse Davis, chief of police at the Anchorage airport.

In Fort Lauderdale, “after he claimed his bag, he went to the bathroom and loaded the gun and began to shoot. We don’t know why,” said Chip LaMarca, Broward County commissioner, which was initiated by the researchers.

The shooter was taken into custody after throwing his empty weapon down and lie down spread-eagle on the ground, a witness said.

“People started sort of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could, or hide under the chairs,” the witness, Mark, Leah, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued to come, just shoot randomly at people, no rhyme or reason.”

The Fort Lauderdale archer said nothing as he went up and down the carousels of baggage claim, the luggage to get at the people who were hiding,” said Lea. The killer went through about three magazines before running out of ammunition, Lea said.

The shooter was arrested unhurt, with no shots fired by the police, and was questioned by the FBI, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 30 to 40 people were injured — abrasions, bruises, and broken bones — after the shooting.

The condition of the injured is not known. At least one of the victims was seen, lying in a pool of blood with what appeared to be a head wound.

The airport was closed, with incoming flights diverted and outgoing flights held on the ground. Airport Director Mark Gale said that it will try to reopen at 5 a.m. Saturday, but urged travellers to check with their individual airlines on the flight status

The bloodshed is likely to ask whether the security in the aviation officials needed to change the rules.

The attack has also exposed another weak point in the security of the airport, While travelers must take off their shoes, put their carry-on luggage through the X-ray machines and pass through metal detectors to reach the gates, many other parts of the airports, such as ticket counters and baggage claim areas, more lightly protected and more vulnerable to attack.

“It is a fact that where there are crowds, such as at our airports, we remain vulnerable to this kind of attacks,” Nelson said.

President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said. President-elect, Donald Trump said that it was a “disgraceful situation that is happening in our country and around the world,” and that it is still too early to say whether it was a terrorist attack.

Santiago’s brother, Bryan, told the AP that his brother had received psychological treatment in Alaska. He said Santiago’s friend warned the family of the situation in recent months. Bryan Santiago said that he did not know what he and his brother had been treated and that they never talked about it.

He said Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey and moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2. He was sent to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, according to the Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen. Later he was a member of the Alaska National Guard.

The Pentagon said Santiago had gone AWOL several times during his stint with the Alaska National Guard and was demoted from specialist to private first class and given a general discharge, which is lower than that of an honorable dismissal.


Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro and Adriana Gomez-Licon in Miami; Lolita C. Baldor and Eric Tucker in Washington; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; David Koenig in Dallas; and Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

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