FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) A 30-page report released by a sheriff’s office in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Florida airport details how an Alaska man waited at a baggage carousel for several minutes last January before being paged to pick up the bag containing his gun, which officials said he used to kill five people and injure six others.
Delta Airlines was paging Esteban Santiago, 27, to retrieve the bag after his flight arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6. Minutes after he picked up the bag, the shooting began.
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The SunSentinel reported that the document is the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s final review of its actions following the mass shooting. The page by Delta is a new detail in the airport shooting. The report didn’t disclose whether airline officials knew what was in the bag.
On that afternoon, passengers from all terminals at the airport fled in a panic over erroneous reports of an additional airport shooter. The report also shed light on the extent of the radio problems police and fire personnel encountered in attempting to communicate as state, local and federal officials answered calls for backup and converged on the airport.
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The report says that at one point, the crush of users sent the system into a “fail-soft” mode and all connections between responding agencies were lost. Dispatchers were not able to quickly reconnect groups and told “all units to stop transmitting until the radio bridges could be restored.”
It took about four minutes, the report said. But the system began to “throttle,” which resulted in garbled transmissions in which Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies and fire officials could only hear parts of words or phrases.
Santiago, of Anchorage, Alaska, was caught by a deputy within minutes of the shooting. But an hour and a half later, the false reports of additional gunfire resulted in bedlam at the busy airport. A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer thought he heard shots and relayed the information to a sheriff’s officer fire captain who broadcast it over the radio as: “Border Patrol reporting shots fired in Terminal 2,” the SunSentinel reported.
“The words “shots fired” spread throughout the airport and triggered pandemonium as thousands of travelers, airline and airport employees began to escape from the concourses, gates, baggage claim areas, curbside loading areas and parking garages of all four terminals,” the report stated.
Sheriff Scott Israel, in an introduction to the report, said the review is an effort to “objectively review and assess” its response to the deadly shooting. The report is much shorter and far less critical than a 99-page draft report released in June that faulted the agency for failing to seize control and set up an effective command system, the newspaper reported.
Santiago has pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment. He has stopped taking anti-psychotic medication to treat schizophrenia but remains mentally competent to stand trial, his lawyer told a judge last month.
The Justice Department may seek the death penalty in a trial currently set for January.