A gunman opened fire at Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport Friday afternoon, killing at least five people and wounding eight others before being taken into custody, authorities said. More than an hour later, authorities continued to treat the attack as an active shooter situation with people seen running across the tarmac while police had their guns drawn.
“I was dodging bullets and trying to help people get out of the way,” an eyewitness, Mark Lea, told NBC News.
The 53-year-old financial adviser from Minneapolis was in the baggage claim when, he said, a man came in and started shooting.
“At first we thought it was firecrackers,” he said. “Everyone started screaming and running. The shooter made his way down through baggage claim. He had what looked like a 9mm and emptied his entire clip. People were trying to run.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said they received a call about the shooting around 12:55 p.m. Live video more than an hour after the attack showed people running across the tarmac between terminals while others took cover behind cars – while officials search for another possible shooter. Police were also seen running into a parking garage with guns drawn.
The shooting occurred at the baggage claim inside Terminal 2. Aerial footage showed a large crowd of people gathered outside on the tarmac.
Police officers responded less than a minute after the shooting began, Lea said. Once the shooter was out of bullets, “he was gunned down by police,” he said.
“It was absolutely surreal,” he said. “People were scared and frantically running to avoid being shot. People were tripping over each other. They were trying to make a fast exit out of the door.”
John Schlicher, who was in the baggage claim with his wife and mother-in-law, told MSNBC the shooter “walked over and he was right in our area within feet from us shooting people.”
Schlicher, from Columbus, Ohio, described the gunman as a “slender man” with “dark hair.”
“I put my head down and prayed,” Schlicher said.
He added that his wife “was holding a sweater up against a man who was shot in the head. She was doing her best to apply pressure to his wounds. The person right next to him was already gone.”
Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who was traveling from the airport, tweeted about the incident:
I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 6, 2017