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People stand on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. [Photo/Lynne Sladky]

Mass Shooting

Fort Lauderdale Shooting: 6 Things to Know Now

In the latest development, law enforcement sources say that the gun the shooter used had been temporarily taken away from him while he underwent psychological evaluation.

At least five people were killed and six wounded in a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida early Friday afternoon.

A gunman opened fire just before 1 p.m. in Terminal 2, according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Police vehicles swarmed the airport as civilians were evacuated onto the tarmac. Flights waiting to depart were grounded and incoming planes were diverted to nearby airports.

“All of a sudden I heard screaming and running, people coming from security, yelling ‘He has a gun, he has a gun!,’” Gene Messina, who’d come to the airport to pick up friends arriving on a flight, told the Sun Sentinel.

Law enforcement took one suspect into custody.

Here’s a rundown of what we know, and what we don’t, as the story continues to unfold.

The suspected gunman is a veteran who received psychological treatment and was being prosecuted for strangling his girlfriend.

The suspect has been identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago. Family members told news outlets that Santiago was born in New Jersey, but lived in Puerto Rico and most recently Alaska. Sheriff Israel said that a Broward County deputy apprehended the suspect “without incident.”

Santiago served in the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2010. He received a general discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard last year for unsatisfactory performance, a spokeswoman told NBC News.

NBC News also reports that in November 2016, Santiago walked into an Alaska FBI office claiming that the CIA was forcing him to watch ISIS videos. He was cleared as a security threat, but taken to a psychological facility for evaluation. Family members and federal law enforcement told news outlets that Santiago was receiving mental health treatment.

Earlier last year, according to charging documents obtained by the Daily Beast, Santiago was arrested for breaking down a bathroom door and hitting and choking his girlfriend. He entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in which he was to complete unspecified requirements in order to have the charges against him dropped.

The New York Daily News reports that Santiago had been arrested in Alaska for damaging property and committing assault.

The shooter reportedly used a gun that law enforcement had temporarily taken away from him.

Santiago’s rambling remarks during his visit to the Anchorage FBI office were worrisome enough to lead agents to seize his gun while he underwent a mental health assessment. But because he was never involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment, and had not committed a felony, he was later given the gun back.

Law enforcement sources say it’s the same gun he used in Friday’s rampage. From CNN:

“As far as I know, this is not somebody that would have been prohibited based on the information that (authorities in Alaska) have. I think that law enforcement acted within the laws that they have,” said US attorney Karen Loeffler.

Santiago got the gun back a month later when he retrieved the pistol from police headquarters, and it was that weapon, law enforcement sources told CNN, that he used to shoot 11 people Friday at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. …

“He hadn’t been adjudicated a felon and he hadn’t been adjudicated mentally ill,” former FBI assistant director and CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes said. “So again, you know we have this situation where he slipped through the cracks.”

The shooter carried his gun in his checked baggage, as allowed under federal law.

After flying from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale via Minneapolis, the suspected gunman retrieved his one checked bag from the claim area of the Fort Lauderdale airport’s Terminal 2. Inside the bag was a gun, which he took into a bathroom to load before returning to the baggage claim area and firing at random into the crowd.

Federal law permits the transport of unloaded firearms and ammunition in checked baggage. PoliceOne, a law enforcement publication, broke down the finer points of the law in a post you can find here

“This guy found a way to exploit a weakness in the system,” a travel analyst told the Associated Press
 

Asked by the AP whether the Fort Lauderdale shooting will prompt a review of Transportation Security Administration rules regarding traveling with firearms, an agency spokesperson declined to comment. 

A Florida lawmaker responded to the shooting by promoting his bill allowing loaded guns in airports.

A committee of the state Senate is scheduled to take up a bill later this month that would repeal bans on carrying guns into sensitive areas. Along with legislative meetings, elementary and secondary schools, and college campuses, the nonsecure areas of airport terminals are among the public spaces that would be opened to concealed firearms if the measure passes.

“My first thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” Greg Steube, the legislation’s sponsor, told a Florida paper on Friday night. “But this goes back to the fact why I’ve been working against gun-free zones for the past three years.”

Florida and five other states currently ban the carrying of weapons in the common areas of airports, according to Florida Carry, a gun-rights group. In 2014, Georgia enacted a law that allows residents with a concealed carry permit to bring guns into most unsecured sections of airports. Last month, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill that repealed a ban on the carrying of guns in the public areas of airport terminals.

Several of the victims were about to start a vacation when they were gunned down.

Though the authorities have not yet publicly confirmed the identities of the five people who lost their lives, relatives and friends have named four of them in news reports and on social media.

Michael Oehme, in his mid-50s, who lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was in south Florida to embark on a cruise with his wife, Kari Slosser Oehme, when he was killed. Kari, 55, was also shot; she is expected to survive.

Olga Woltering, 84, of Marietta, Georgia, was also headed for a cruise with her spouse when she was killed, according to fellow parishioners at Transfiguration Catholic Church. Her husband, Ralph, has not been named as one of the victims.

Shirley Timmons, 70, of Senecaville, Ohio, was scheduled to join the rest of her family on a cruise when she was fatally shot. Her husband Steve, 70, was traveling with her; he was also shot and required emergency surgery. The couple was about to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary on January 28.

Terry Andres, 62, of Virginia was about to start a vacation with his wife when he was fatally shot. His wife was unharmed. When Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe learned one of the victims was from his state, he said, “We’ve got to get to the bottom of the gun violence going on in the country.”

This was the sixth multiple-casualty shooting of 2017.

There have been as many mass-casualty shootings as days in the New Year, according to Gun Violence Archive.

  • On January 4, three people were killed and one person was wounded when a 73-year-old man in Fresno, California, opened fire on family members.
  • On January 3, four people were wounded when a dispute over a vandalized car that began on Facebook escalated to gunfire in Allen, Texas.
  • On New Year’s Day, five people were wounded in a shooting in a restaurant parking lot in Winstonville, Mississippi.
  • In a second New Year’s incident, seven people were wounded when someone in a car opened fire outside a home in Miami.
  • A third mass-casualty shooting on January 1 left one person dead and three injured at a banquet hall in Dallas.

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