A man identified as a mentally disturbed Army veteran with voices in his head urging him to join ISIS opened fire inside the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airport Friday, killing five and injuring eight others in a scene of total chaos.
“At first, we thought it was firecrackers,” witness Mark Lea, 53, told MSNBC of the afternoon attack at the busy Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. “Everyone started screaming and running.”
The lone gunman, identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, reloaded his weapon twice as he sprayed bullets near the baggage-claim carousels in Terminal 2’s lower level at around 1 p.m.
Terrified travelers fled onto the tarmac, and at the end of his rampage, Santiago lay spread-eagle on the floor until he was arrested.
He was taken into custody “without incident,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who added that the shooter was being interviewed by a team of FBI agents.
While his motive remains unclear, Israel said he was possibly a “homegrown violent extremist.”
On Thursday night, Santiago took Delta Flight 1088 from Anchorage to Minneapolis-St. Paul, before grabbing a connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale.
He had stashed his gun in his checked luggage, which he retrieved at the baggage claim.
The killer then slipped into a bathroom, where he put on a blue “Star Wars” T-shirt and took out his weapon, a federal source told The Post.
When Santiago emerged, he executed travelers at random.
He remained mostly silent during the slaughter, although he did shout at one point, “I’m not Jewish,” as he carried out the attack, a federal law-enforcement source told The Post.
The five slain people were all shot in the head, the source said, adding that the gunman surrendered only when he ran out of ammunition.
“The shooter made his way down through baggage claim,” said Lea, the witness. “He had what looked like a 9mm and emptied his entire clip. People were trying to run.
“Once he finished shooting, he walked down by Door 2, threw his gun on the ground, and laid down on the ground, spread-eagle, until the first officer came — which was probably a minute later,” Lea told MSNBC.
Another witness, John Schlicher, said the “slender” gunman was firing bullets just feet away from him, prompting him to pray for his life.
“I put my head down and prayed,” the man told MSNBC.
Even in the chaos, Schlicher’s wife tried to help one of the many victims who lay wounded on the floor.
“My wife took a sweater from my mother-in-law and applied pressure to the man next to us,” he recalled. “He’d been shot in the head. All the people had been shot in the head.”
“The man next to him — they checked the vital signs and he was gone,” Schlicher added.
Gruesome cellphone videos taken at the scene show wounded people lying limp on the floor next to the baggage carousels with pools of blood around their heads.
People could be seen staggering around the baggage claim area, appearing dazed and confused.
Another video taken outside the terminal shows a man bleeding profusely as he sits on the sidewalk.
The chaos continued even after Santiago was taken into custody, with unconfirmed reports about 90 minutes later of a second shooter inside a parking garage attached to a different terminal.
Authorities rushed into the parking garage, but Sheriff Israel confirmed later that there had been “no second active shooter.”
“Someone that was leaving the airport in the parking garage thought they heard something that sounded like gunshots,” said Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief.
The shooting spree shut down the entire airport, stranding travelers inside the terminal and on flights that weren’t allowed to de-plane. Hundreds of people ran out of the airport and onto the tarmac.
People inside the airport were told to shelter in place as authorities conducted a sweep of the terminals
“We heard gunshots and saw security and passengers yelling to take cover,” John Kaneklides, 32, who was catching a flight to New York.
“I ran to the flight-attendant kiosk with other passengers — 30 seconds later the door of the tarmac was opened, and we were all crawling on all fours to get outside.”
“[There’s a] sense of camaraderie. Everyone is just happy to be alive,” Kaneklides said from the airport, where he was still stuck as of early Friday evening.
Eight injured people were taken to area hospitals. The five who died have yet to be identified.
“We still have people fighting for their lives in the hospital,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted about the shooting on Friday afternoon, saying he had spoken to Scott.
“Monitoring the terrible situation in Florida. Just spoke to Governor Scott. Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!” he wrote.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rosner
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