In a shocking incident, an Army veteran who landed at the Fort Lauderdale airport with a pistol in his checked baggage opened fire in the baggage area on Friday, killing five people and wounding at least eight before throwing his weapon down.
The accused was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago by officials and immediately taken into custody. He served in Iraq with the National Guard, but was discharged last year for poor performance His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment lately.
“We don’t know a motive at this point,” said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida as per a report in The Indian Express. “This could well be someone who is mentally deranged, or in fact it could be someone who had a much more sinister motive that we have to worry about every day, and that is terrorism.”
As per witnesses, the attacker shot victims without saying a word. He kept shooting until he fell short of the bullets for his revolver. The freaked travelers began running out of the terminal.
Soon after the incident, police and paramedics rushed in to aid the wounded and ascertain whether there were any other gunmen. The airport was closed.
“People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs,” a witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”
It is permissible for passengers to travel with guns providing the firearms are put in a checked bag and not a carry-on and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. It must be declared to the airline at check-in counter.
After taking off from his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale with only one piece of luggage — his gun, said Jesse Davis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.
“After he claimed his bag (at Fort Lauderdale), he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” said Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed by investigators. The incident may raise questions on whether aviation security officials need to change the guidelines.