At the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Florida, a gunman killed at least five people and wounded eight others Friday before police captured him. William Brangham speaks with Feature Story News’ Steve Mort, who was at the airport soon after the attack, about what he saw in the immediate aftermath and what we know about the suspect, Esteban Santiago.
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The day’s other major story is Florida. Panic erupted at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, when a gunman shot five people to death and wounded eight more before he was captured.
William Brangham picks it up from there.
The shooting set off an afternoon of chaotic reports about exactly what was going on.
Steve Mort of Feature Story News is at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. And he joins me via telephone.
So, Steve, I understand you were there soon after this attack came to an end. Can you tell us what you first saw?
Feature Story News: Yes, we were here very soon after it took place, maybe about 20 minutes to half-an-hour or so.
And as we got to the airport, we tried to find a vantage point to establish our camera. We managed to find a vantage point on the parking garage that was overlooking terminal two, where the shooting took place, of course, in the baggage claim area.
And what happened was, there were subsequent reports of a shooter inside that parking garage, and that prompted the SWAT team to move in. They moved us, as well as other passengers, members of the public that were in that parking garage out and into one of the other terminals here at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.
Now, it was a very surreal situation. We had to duck behind cars as SWAT team members spotted an unidentified individual within the parking garage, which, of course, triggered multiple rumors there were, in fact, other shooters, a very common phenomenon in mass shooting incidents, which many of us who have had the misfortune to cover them know well.
Eventually, we did manage to reach the terminal. We saw several groups of people who had been asked to clear areas by the police, running, screaming, many of them not sure what was going on. So, it was a pretty chaotic scene.
So, we understand from the sheriff and from the governor there is a suspect named Esteban Santiago who has been apprehended. He is now believed to be the only shooter. What do we know about who this man is?
Yes, that is correct. We do understand at this stage that he did act on his own. We understand that he boarded a plane in Alaska. We understand that Esteban Santiago then flew to Fort Lauderdale, where he unpacked from his packed — or from his checked baggage a firearm.
We understand that he flew with it, he checked it into his checked luggage. Of course, you’re allowed to do that. You can’t take firearms on the plane. You can put them in your checked bags. He took a gun out of his checked bag, went to a bathroom in the baggage claim area or adjacent to the baggage claim area in the terminal two here at the airport, when he loaded the weapon, then went back out into the baggage claim area and opened fire.
In terms of the suspect himself, Esteban Santiago, we’re getting sort of patchy details about his background. He is suspected to be a former U.S. Army soldier from the New York area. Now, we do know that Esteban’s brother says that he had been receiving psychological treatment while living in Alaska and that Esteban’s girlfriend had alerted the brother to the situation after the shooting had unfolded.
Now, of course, the main point now for authorities will be to try to figure out exactly what the motivation here was in this attack. We don’t believe at the moment, according to authorities, that there was a terrorism motivation here, but certainly FBI officials are going to be questioning him intensely over the coming hours and days, trying to find out exactly why he carried out this attack.
All right, Steve Mort of Feature Story News, thank you very much.