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Motive In Question In Deadly Shooting At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Int'l Airport

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- More than six hours after a deadly shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), hundreds of travelers, left stranded for hours, were starting to be let out of the tarmac and terminals.

As of Friday evening, the airport remained shutdown as law enforcement searched through the airport. The public was not being allowed into the airport.

Meantime, Broward Sheriff's deputies are working with the FBI, trying to figure a motive for the shooting. They are trying to find out if an argument on a plane sparked the shooting. Federal law enforcement sources told CBS News the shooter got into an argument on one leg of his travel from Alaska to Florida. The accused shooter was on a Delta flight during the second leg of his trip to Fort Lauderdale, sources said.

Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca told CBS4  the shooter claimed his bag at the baggage claim area then took the gun from his bag before going into a bathroom and loading his weapon. He then reportedly came out of the bathroom and began shooting people in the baggage claim area.  The accused shooter apparently ran out of bullets and sat down on the ground and waited for law enforcement to come and collect him.

A law enforcement source identified the accused shooter as Esteban Santiago Ruiz, 26, of New Jersey. The source said the recent father had an active military ID for the U.S. Army. Ruiz was part of the Alaska Army National Guard until August 2016 when he was discharged for unsatisfactory performance.

"The subject is being interviewed by a team of FBI agents and Broward Sheriff's deputies," said Sheriff Scott Israel.

The FBI addressed the media late Friday night.

"We have begun the difficult task of processing the crime scene," FBI spokesman George Piro. "We have not ruled out terrorism and we will be perusing every angle to try to determine a motive behind this attack."

Piro said they are looking into all possible connections Santiago had, which includes reviewing everywhere he traveled.

"The suspect is in federal custody, and will face federal charges," Piro said.

Piro said Santiago should make his first court appearance on Monday.

Sources say he had a concealed weapons permit. A law enforcement source said Santiago had a minor criminal history.

Esteban Santiago - Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport Shooter
Suspected Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooter Esteban Santiago. (Picture provided by law enforcement sources)

Law Enforcement sources told CBS News that in Nov. 2016, he walked into an FBI office in Anchorage, AK claiming he was being forced to fight for ISIS but was sent to a psychiatric hospital after police was called.

Piro also confirmed Santiago was evaluated by the FBI while living in Alaska.

"He did go to our office in Anchorage, but he did not want to commit harm," the agent said. "He voluntarily entered our office and was interviewed by agents of the office. He was turned over to local custody and then taken to a local hospital."

In 2011 or 2012, he was investigated for child porn. Three weapons and a computer were seized but there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

Air Canada took to Twitter to deny they had the accused gunman on the flight saying, "We confirm we have no record of a passenger by the name Esteban Santiago, or checked guns, on any of our flights to Fort Lauderdale."

Piro said it is still unclear why Santiago came to Florida.

A semi-automatic handgun was seen on the floor of the airport. CBS News was told it was the weapon used by the shooter.

The gun used in a deadly mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (CBS News)

Just before 3 p.m., Broward Sheriff's deputies were seen at the airport, guns drawn.

Deputies were seen landing their chopper on top of one of the airport garages.

"I heard 'pop, pop, pop, pop' and then this herd of people were immediately just running and they all were like 'run, run, run,'" said Debra Fugleberg.

People were seen huddling behind cars near the airport's Hibiscus Garage. Terrified passengers poured onto the tarmac, even racing across the runway.

And it wasn't just from Terminal 2.  Suddenly there were reports of gunfire in Terminal 1.

"Inside the terminal we heard 'bam, bam, bam, bam,'" said William Hazelgrove told CBS4's Ted Scouten.

Authorities later confirmed the shooting only happened at Terminal 2.

"There's been no shooting any place else but downstairs Terminal 2," said Sheriff Israel.

Despite the chaos, Sheriff Israel said, "it seems like somebody got injured evacuating, nothing to do with any law enforcement have confirmed that there were any other shots other than in Terminal 2."

Authorities said the gunman opened fire around 1 p.m. in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2.

"People yelling, people screaming, everyone in a big pack just running as far as possible away from the shots. Our bus driver wasn't sure what was going on, he was asking, 'What's happening? What's going on?' But no one was answering because everyone was in a rush to get safe," said a traveler named Ben, who was at the airport grabbing a shuttle when the shooting happened.

In total, 11 people were shot - five victims have died while six remain in the hospital, according to deputies. They say they are not releasing information on those killed in the shooting until they identify them and notify next of kin.

A family member has identified the first shooting victim killed in the attack as 62-year-old Terry Andres of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

His daughter told the local television station that her father was at the airport with his wife, who was unharmed, and that the pair were going on vacation.

"We're just going to go step by step methodically through the building before we reopen the airport," said an airport spokesman.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott  spoke to the public Friday evening after arriving at the airport calling the deadly shooting a 'senseless act of evil.'

"We could not imagine how this could ever happen in a state like ours," said Gov. Scott. "Whoever is responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of the law."

President Barack Obama has been briefed on the incident. The president is set to travel to the Jacksonville area on Saturday. He has no public events planned and the reason for the trip has not been released.

President-elect Donald Trump also offered 'thoughts and prayers' for those affected in the shooting. Gov. Scott said he had spoken to Trump throughout the day, but had not spoken to President Obama.

The county has established a toll-free number for passengers and family members to call (866) 435-9355. Deputies are asking people not to call 9-1-1 on this matter.

The during and after the shooting played out on social media with those in the area sharing what they were seeing.

FLL Shooting
Numerous people have died after a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. (Source: Twitter)

The airport closed down operations for the rest of the day. The airport director said he hoped to have operations back to normal by 5 a.m. Saturday.

This story is developing. Check back with for the latest information. 

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