Pictures posted on social media showed people appearing to shield others
By Caribbean News Now contributor
FORT LAUDERDALE, USA -- At least five people were killed and as many as eight wounded on Friday in a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport in Florida, an increasingly popular hub for Caribbean passengers, in what is said to be the worst attack at a US airport in more than three years.
The shooting took place in a public, unsecured lower-level baggage claim area of Terminal 2 at the airport. The airport remained on lockdown on Friday afternoon, with throngs of evacuated travellers standing on the tarmac, before being allowed back into the terminal after being rescreened.
The gunman has been identified as Esteban Santiago, 26, of Anchorage, Alaska, who, according to Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca writing on Facebook, landed at the airport after a flight. Santiago had checked a handgun in his luggage and retrieved it at the Terminal 2 baggage claim, LaMaca wrote, adding that he loaded the gun in a bathroom then came out and opened fire. NBC News, citing law enforcement officials, confirmed LaMarca’s account.
Santiago was taken into custody unharmed by a Broward County sheriff's deputy. Authorities said they fired no shots while apprehending Santiago. After he ran out of bullets, witnesses reportedly said Santiago threw his gun to the ground and laid face down while he waited for officers.
Santiago was born in New Jersey, according to NBC News, and was a member of the US Army National Guard. ABC News reported that Santiago joined the National Guard in early 2016 and was honourably discharged approximately four months ago. He served in Puerto Rico and Iraq before moving to Alaska two years ago, his brother, Bryan Santiago, told reporters. He described his brother as "pro-American" and "spiritual." He was receiving psychological counseling, his brother said. Santiago has a girlfriend and child in Alaska, according to NBC News.
Santiago reportedly visited an FBI office in Anchorage in 2016, which prompted officials to contact local authorities to make sure he received a mental health check. According to the Washington Post, Santiago expressed incoherent thoughts during the visit and said that he believed the federal government was after him, agents said.