The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (Florida) International Airport (FLL) shooter was an arriving passenger who used a handgun from his checked baggage.
The suspect, named by law enforcement authorities as Esteban Santiago, a US citizen, flew on two Delta Air Lines flights Jan. 6, originating in Anchorage (ANC) and connecting at Minneapolis (MSP) for a flight to FLL, according to the FBI. A semi-automatic handgun was in a bag checked by the suspect at ANC. “Every indication is that he did follow TSA [Transportation Security Administration] procedures in checking in the weapon,” FBI special agent in charge of the investigation George Piro said at a Jan. 7 press conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Santiago began shooting in the FLL Terminal 2 baggage claim area shortly before 1 p.m. Jan. 6, according to Broward County sheriff Scott Israel. Five people were killed and six wounded; three of the wounded remained in intensive care at an area hospital as of Saturday morning, according to Israel.
Israel said police were able to reach the suspect, who is in custody and has been charged with an act of violence at an airport, 70-80 seconds after the first shot was fired. The airport was closed for commercial flights from shortly after 1 p.m. Jan 6 to 5 a.m. Jan. 7.
Piro said the FBI has “not ruled out anything” in terms of the suspect’s motives, though he added, “At this point it appears the shooter was acting alone.” Piro said it is “way too early in the investigation” to rule out terrorism as a possibility. Piro said there was “no indication” the suspect had gotten into an altercation or caused a disturbance on either of the Delta flights he took to get to FLL.
Israel said “there certainly will be a difference” in police activity at FLL in the coming days. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has “beefed up patrol at the airport,” including deploying “officers carrying long guns,” he said.
Asked about the quality of security at US airports, Israel said, “I think the safety at airports is phenomenal. If you have someone with mental health issues or what we call a lone wolf assassin that is willing to carry out some heinous act, there’s not much law enforcement can do about it.” He added that police and airport security personnel need to be trained to quickly respond to incidents so the damage from an attack can be mitigated.
US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Florida), whose district includes FLL, said there is “no question we need … to take a hard look at the security around baggage claim areas” in airports. She added that Congress will be considering what measures should be taken in the aftermath of the FLL shooting.
The airport reopened Saturday, Jan. 7 and on Jan. 9, Delta reported normal baggage operations at Terminal 2 had resumed. Cargo shipments to and from FLL have also resumed, Delta said in a statement.