On January 6 a mentally ill man (who had previously tried to turn himself in to the FBI) flew from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale. He checked a bag with his handgun, collected the gun from baggage claim, and after loading it in the restroom proceeded to kill 5 people and wound 6 more before surrendering to police at 1 p.m. in the afternoon.
Though the ‘all clear’ was given six hours later, some people couldn’t get out of the airport until long after midnight. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel investigated what went wrong with the response (HT: Miles From Blighty).
- 3 officers erroneously reported additional shots fired after the shooter was taken down.
“I heard the shooting from inside the garage. Across from Terminal 4,” an officer said at 2:23 p.m. over a police radio.
“Shots fired, shots fired. Terminal 4,” an officer said at 2:25 p.m., with screaming in the background.
“Terminal 1. Shots fired,” another officer said seconds later.
“Active shooter, 50 Terminal Drive, Southwest Airlines,” a dispatcher reported.
- In response “as many as 2,400 officers” showed up at the airport and overwhelmed the county’s radio system so officers couldn’t communicate with each other.
- Passenger chaos was exacerbated by plain clothes officers running with guns. People thought they were shooters.
Frank Meyers of Columbus, Ohio, a traveler in Terminal 1, told the Sun Sentinel that he saw a man with a pistol, in civilian clothes, running toward his daughter. Although someone quickly said the man was a police officer, Meyers said, “He scared the hell out of everybody.”
Another traveler posted video online of a man in a sweatshirt, jeans, ball cap and backpack, running in a terminal, gun in hand. The Broward Sheriff’s Office told the Sun Sentinel the man on the video is a law enforcement officer. One witness told the Sun Sentinel he had a badge around his neck. Seen from behind in the video, he is not recognizable as law enforcement.
Even police seemed confused. Police surrounded a man in a white T-shirt who may have been one of their own. They noted on the radio that he “possibly has a badge.”
- Passengers think the TSA is there to protect them, but TSA agents are actually trained to run and hide.
A Maryland couple told the county that TSA and airport security personnel “pushed people aside.” A British Columbia couple, Cam and Linda Vallee, said a TSA worker used their daughter’s back “as a stepping stool to get over her and ahead of the screaming crowd.”
TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said…“TSA employees — like so many others that day — were heroic in their efforts to protect and shelter others”
This isn’t the first time we’ve had an airport shooter, or mistaken reports of an airport shooter, that caused terminals to be evacuated. At New York JFK in August, where cheering for the Olympics was mistaken for gun shots, TSA agents ran through the airport screaming about a bomb and a shooting victim.
Copyright: boscorelli / 123RF Stock Photo
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel “was in charge” and he says “everything was done excellently.” Although he says at some point the FBI took charge. The airport’s security chief says, “I’m very comfortable with the decisions that were made that day.”
The Sheriff went on tv at 3:25 p.m. declaring that there were no other shooters or shots fired. People still weren’t allowed to begin leaving the airport for over three more hours.
“No water, no sitting, no restrooms,” said Philip Dubois, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who wrote to the Broward County Commission to complain after he and his wife fled Terminal 3 and found themselves on the tarmac for hours.
…Frank Biancucci, of Ontario, Canada, a retired deputy fire chief, spent seven hours on the tarmac and five more on a sidewalk.
…Calls to 911 for medical help included a 2-year-old described as lethargic, a heart patient with no medication, an elderly woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease in distress, an 8-year-old vomiting and an 88-year-old woman who had collapsed.
…law enforcement prevented airport personnel from moving about the airfield to distribute provisions to passengers.
The airport spokesman’s spokesman says information was limited deliberately to prevent “the bad guys” from learning what was going on. Even after the Sheriff was on television informing the broader public that they knew there were no other bad guys.
Buses were still leaving the airport to move passengers off property at 1 a.m.