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Fort Lauderdale airport shooting leaves at least 5 dead

Last Updated Jan 7, 2017 12:48 AM EST

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A gunman opened fire in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday, killing five people and wounding eight before being taken into custody in an attack that sent panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, authorities said.

An additional 37 people were injured after the incident, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department posted on Twitter on Friday night. 

The Broward County Sheriff’s office said late Friday night that the victims’ names are not being released as they wait on notification of next of kin. 

The airport resumed operations for cargo planes, corporate jets and private small planes at midnight, the airport said. Commerical operations will resume on Saturday.

Mark Gale, the airport director, said 10,000 people were being transported to the port. 

The gunman was identified as Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, 26, who had active-duty military identification on him and was born in New Jersey, law enforcement sources told CBS News.

Santiago-Ruiz was in federal custody, the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. He will face federal charges, the FBI said. 

esteban-santiago-fort-lauderdale-shooting-2-2017-1-6.jpg

Esteban Santiago

Law enforcement sources

Federal law enforcement officials told CBS News’ Jeff Pegues that Santiago-Ruiz had gotten in an argument on one leg of his flight from Alaska to Florida, and the second leg of the trip was on a Delta flight. 

The motive remains under investigation. Law enforcement officials said there is no immediate link to terrorism. FBI sources told CBS News’ Pat Milton that they ran a full database check on Santiago-Ruiz, and they found no connection to terror groups. They are currently investigating the argument, sources said. 

In Nov. 2016, Santiago-Ruiz walked into an FBI office in Anchorage and claimed he was being forced to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), law enforcement sources told CBS News. He also said his mind was being controlled by the CIA to watch ISIS videos, sources said. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital after police were called, sources said. 

He was also investigated as part of a child porn investigation in either 2011 or 2012, law enforcement sources told CBS News. Three weapons and a computer were seized, but no charges were filed, sources said. 

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said it was unclear whether the military ID was the gunman’s.

“We don’t know a motive at this point,” Nelson said. “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. We can’t conclude that.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave a press conference at 5:15 p.m. ET and said he had reached out to President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

“This is a senseless act of evil,” Scott said. 

President Obama was briefed by his homeland security adviser, the White House said. In a statement from the White House, Mr. Obama “extended his sincere condolence” to the victims. 

A witness, Mark Lea, told CBSN the shooter appeared to be in his mid-twenties, and described it as “random shooting.” 

“Just shooting people that were ducked behind, underneath the chairs ... people were yelling, screaming, frantically trying to get out of any door they could, or hide under chairs, luggage to do anything they could to get out of the line of fire.”

Lea said the shooter was “calm as can be ... he just walked in and started shooting. He wasn’t frantic, he wasn’t psychotic.” 

Lea said he was 50 feet away from the gunman, who was carrying a 9-mm weapon. Lea estimated that the suspect shot about 24 rounds. 

Lea said that after firing the shots, the gunman walked out of “door 2” and “lay spread-eagle on the floor and waited for law enforcement to arrive.” 

He told CBS Minnesota that “people started yelling and screaming running for any exit they could.”

“It sounded at first like firecrackers, and then we figured out what actually was going on. There was actually a shooter,”  Lea told CBS Minnesota. 

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Police and Fire Department chief Jesse Davis told CBS News that Santiago-Ruiz checked in at that airport at 5:23 p.m., and said he checked a firearm into his baggage. Nothing about the check-in aroused suspicion, Davis said. 

“After he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” LaMarca said.

It is legal for airline passengers to carry guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag - not in a carry-on - and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Air Canada said that it had no record of the suspect as a passenger or of checked guns on its flights to Fort Lauderdale. Delta did not comment if the suspect took one of their flights, but issued a statement to CBS News that the airline is cooperating with the investigation. 

“Specially trained Delta Care Team members have been activated and are traveling to Fort Lauderdale to assist families and friends of customers and employees who may have been impacted by the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport,” Delta wrote in a statement. 

The attack took place at Terminal 2, which serves Delta Air Lines and Air Canada.

Israel said five people were killed and eight were wounded. Their condition was not disclosed. He said the gunman was arrested unharmed, with no law enforcement officers firing any shots, and was being questioned by the FBI.

The sheriff urged people to not call 911 for information about the shooting. Facebook enabled its safety check feature so users could report their status on the social media platform.

The airport suspended operations as law enforcement authorities rushed to the scene and emergency medical workers treated at least one bleeding victim on the tarmac.

People spilled onto the tarmac, some carrying luggage, and some ran from both Terminals 1 and 2, hiding behind cars or anything else they could find to shield themselves.

Video posted on Instagram appeared to show several people wounded in the baggage claim area of the terminal. One person appeared to be lying in a pool of blood with a head wound.

Paramedics could also be seen treating a bleeding victim outside the airport. Hundreds of people stood on the tarmac as an ambulance drove by.

Flights already in the air and headed for the airport were delayed or diverted, and those that had yet to take off for Fort Lauderdale were held on the ground.

Nearly an hour after the sheriff’s office said a suspect was in custody, people started running across the tarmac, CBS Miami station WFOR-TV reports. Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters there was no confirmation of any additional shooting.

“At this point it looks like he acted alone,” Israel said.

John Schilcher told Fox News said he came up to the baggage claim and heard the first gunshot as he picked up his bag off a carousel.

“The person next to me fell to the ground and then I started hearing other pops. And as this happened, other people started falling and you could hear it and smell it, and people on either side of me were going down and I just dropped to the ground,” said Schilcher, who was there with his wife and mother-in-law.

“The firing just went on and on,” he said.

He said the gunman emptied his weapon and reloaded, and “it was eerily quiet.”

“I was down on the floor, when we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me,” Schilcher said. “That’s when I assumed it was safe.”

Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer tweeted that he was at the airport when shots were fired and “everyone is running.”

On Friday night, FBI agents were investigating at a house in Union City, New Jersey, where a relative of Santiago-Ruiz’s lives, CBS New York reports. The FBI confirmed that that there was an active investigation at the home Friday evening. About eight federal agents were seen coming and going through the front door, before leaving the scene in unmarked cars with emergency lights.