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News media are reporting that several people have been shot at Fort Lauderdale International Airport.
USA TODAY NETWORK

Authorities in multiple states are working to gather information from the deadly shooting attack which rocked Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that killed at least five people and injured eight others Friday.

The incident sparked utter chaos as terrified passengers ran through the airport before police apprehended the suspect without incident, according to law enforcement authorities.

Here’s what we know at the moment.


What happened?

The melee, which erupted around 1 p.m. ET, was sparked by a gunman who opened fire at passengers at a baggage claim in Terminal 2, killing at least 5 people and injuring 8 others. Witnesses, who described the shooter as a slender, 5-foot-7 male with a blue T-shirt, said the suspect did not say a word during the incident and emptied several magazines of bullets during the attack. The suspect then dropped to the floor spread-eagled to await arrest, witnesses said.

Broward County commissioner Chip LaMarca said that the shooter’s gun was in his checked bag. After retrieving the bag, the alleged shooter went to the bathroom, loaded the firearm and then started shooting, LaMarca tweeted.

Authorities have yet to establish a motive for the shooting and told reporters that “it looks like he acted alone.”


Who is the suspect?

Law enforcement officials identified Esteban Santiago, 26, a former Army veteran, as the suspect behind the heinous attack. Santiago was taken into custody without incident by a Broward County sheriff’s deputy, Sheriff Scott Israel said on Friday.

Born in New Jersey, Santiago served in both the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Alaska Army National Guard, according to Lt. Col. Candis A. Olmstead, director of public affairs for the Alaska National Guard. A federal official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, added that Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale early Friday aboard a Delta flight that originated Thursday in Anchorage and passed through Minneapolis.

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The FBI conducted a background check, learning of his military record, which included service in Iraq, but found no connection to terror groups. “We have not ruled out terrorism,” FBI special agent George Piro in a press conference late Friday night. “We’re not ruling out anything.”

According to the FBI, Santiago appeared unannounced in the FBI offices in Anchorage, complaining that the Islamic State had gained control of his mind and the terror group was urging him to fight on its behalf.

“During the interview, Santiago appeared agitated and incoherent, and made disjointed statements,” the FBI said in a statement. “Although Santiago stated that he did not wish to harm anyone, as a result of his erratic behavior, interviewing agents contacted local authorities who took custody of Santiago and transported him to a local medical facility for evaluation.

“The FBI closed its assessment of Santiago after conducting database reviews, inter-agency checks, and interviews of his family members.”


How did a gun get through a checked bag?

Transportation Security Administration rules allow travelers to pack unloaded firearms in checked luggage, so long as passengers declare their weapons to the airline while checking in, and they are packed in a locked, hard-sided container.

The strict protocols involve showing the weapon and its carrying case to an airline ticket agent, who then checks that the gun is unloaded. Ammunition may also be carried in checked baggage but must be stored separately from the gun, said David Williams, assistant professor of aerospace and occupational safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

If the high-tech baggage screening behind the scenes detects a gun that hasn’t been declared, “that gun will be set aside. It will not get on the airplane. And, a law enforcement officer will find and arrest you,” Williams said.


What criminal charges will Santiago likely face?

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Bradford Cohen said Santiago, who carried a military ID during the incident, will likely face murder charges and hinted that federal authorities could take the lead to charge Santiago with a range of crimes, including assault, weapons offenses and attempted murder.

Because an airport can fall under state or federal jurisdiction, the case against Santiago could “very likely go federal for the murder charge,” Cohen added.


Where are the stranded travelers? When will the airport reopen?

Airport Director Mark Gale said about 10,000 people have been taken to Terminal 4 of Port Everglades to coordinate a large effort to find them hotels, transportation and food. Dozens of buses have been ferrying people there.

With the threat apparently contained, the goal is to reopen the airport by 5 a.m., Gale said and encouraged passengers to check with their airlines.