FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – JANUARY 06: Police assist people seeking cover outside of Terminal 2 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place near the baggage claim on January 6, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Officials are reporting that five people wear killed and eight wounded in an attack from a single gunman. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP
JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
A gunman opened fire Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport, a major tourist hub in Florida, killing five people and injuring eight, and sending panicked travelers fleeing for safety.
Broward County Sheriff’s office tweeted that a suspect was in custody following the shooting that broke out around midday, shutting down the international airport.
The Sheriff’s office said five people were dead and eight had been taken to an area hospital.
There was no immediate indication of a motive for the shooting, in a country where gun violence is widespread due to the ready availability of firearms.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson said the gunman had been identified as Estaban Nelson.
“He had a military ID, we don’t know if it is current, but every time you get a bunch of people like at baggage claim or like outside of TSA (Transportation Security Administration) where you’re going to security or lines at the ticket counter, it’s a soft target,” the senator told CNN.
The Broward County Sheriff’s office said it had received “unconfirmed reports of addt’l shots fired on airport property.”
Mayor Barbara Sharief said earlier that the gunman appeared to have acted alone.
“He was a lone shooter, and we have no evidence at this time that he was acting with anyone else. He is in custody, and we are currently investigating,” Sharief told CNN.
Witness John Schlicher told Fox News that as he retrieved his baggage, “I heard the first shot. As I did, the person right next to me fell to the ground… It was very surreal.”
The shooter “was holding a handgun. He was firing into the crowd. Everyone was standing there waiting for the luggage,” he said.
Several passengers were huddled inside a supply closet at the airport, while awaiting the all-clear.
“We were all here in Terminal 2 at Delta when the shooting started,” one of them, identified only as Duane, told CNN by telephone.
“Everybody just scattered. It was mass hysteria,” he said.
Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist hub and beach resort in the greater Miami area, and a main starting point for travel and cruises to the Caribbean.
The airport said the incident broke out in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2.
“All services are temporarily suspended at #FLL. Please contact your air carrier about your flight information,” it tweeted.
– ‘Everybody started running’ –
Passengers ran for safety when the shots broke out, while others clustered on the tarmac.
Ari Fleischer, a former White House spokesman who was at the scene, tweeted: “I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running.”
Cellphone video footage broadcast by local Fox television affiliate Channel 7 showed one person lying bloodied on the floor, and several others on their knees.
A passenger named as Peter Cruise said he believed that travelers on his plane were among the victims.
He said he and his family “were walking up the ramp and just passed the checking gate when all a sudden everybody started running.”
“I grabbed the kids and took off running down the ramp. Told the flight attendant to let us off the tarmac, we ran to hide behind some luggage carts.”
With the initial panic over, Cruise said he and around 600 fellow passengers were now inside the terminal but that no one was being allowed to leave.
“Everybody seems to be calm now except for kids,” he said.
Governor Rick Scott rushed to the airport to be briefed on the shooting, as dozens of police and emergency vehicles converged on the scene.
President-elect Donald Trump said he had just spoken with Scott, and was “monitoring the terrible situation in Florida.”
“Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!” he tweeted.
President Barack Obama has also been briefed on the developing situation.