Report: Lack of command stymied response to airport shooting

AP News
Posted: Aug 15, 2017 3:24 PM
Report: Lack of command stymied response to airport shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — No top law enforcement official took command immediately following last January's deadly shooting at a Florida airport, leading to confusion and a breakdown in communication, a report released Tuesday says.

The Broward County report shows the extent of the confusion that reigned at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in the minutes and hours after the Jan. 6 shooting that left five people dead and six wounded. About 2,600 law enforcement officers from throughout South Florida rushed to the airport, but no one from the Broward Sheriff's Office took charge of the response, the 82-page report says. Without a plan or system to deploy them, most deputies and officers were stranded outside the airport and their presence overwhelmed the radio and cellphone systems.

"Most of the law enforcement personnel who responded lacked clear instructions, objectives and roles," the report says. There was also confusion about what role the FBI played in the investigation -- shootings at airports are a federal crime.

Airport and county officials are expected to address the report at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Authorities say Esteban Santiago, an Iraq war veteran from Anchorage, Alaska, flew to Fort Lauderdale with a 9mm handgun in a box he put in checked luggage. After landing he retrieved the weapon, loaded it in a bathroom and came out firing randomly in a crowded baggage claim area until he exhausted his ammunition. He surrendered 85 seconds after the first shot was fired.

The FBI says several video cameras captured the shooting and that Santiago admitted committing the shootings in recorded interviews with agents after his arrest. His federal trial has been delayed until at least January as prosecutors decide whether to seek the death penalty. Santiago, a diagnosed schizophrenic, told FBI agents he acted under government mind control and then claimed inspiration by the Islamic State extremist group. No terrorism links have been found.

False reports 90 minutes after Santiago's barrage of a second shooter sent people stampeding, injuring 40. The report says that could have been largely avoided if police officers had earphones to listen to their radios without civilians overhearing them.

More than 10,000 passengers were at the airport during the shooting.