A Beavercreek man was just feet away from the shooter who killed and injured multiple people Friday afternoon at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The Rev. John Schlicher of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Beavercreek, who was headed to the Panama Canal on a cruise with his wife and mother-in-law, stood in the middle of baggage claim when shots rung out. He heard the first shot, and the person to his right collapsed to the ground.
“He was holding a handgun and was firing into the crowd,” Schlicher told FoxNews. “Everyone was waiting for their baggage. He just started shooting.”
WHAT TO KNOW: Transporting firearms and ammunition on planes
Around 1 p.m., a single shooter killed at least five people, and injured multiple others. The suspect, identified as 26-year-old Estaban Santiago, was a passenger on a Canadian flight with a checked gun. He claimed his bag and took the gun from the baggage claim area and went into the bathroom to load the gun, according to reports.
He then started shooting into the crowd of travelers in the large hub airport, according to a Broward County commissioner. Schlicher described the shooter as slender with dark hair, standing in the middle of a hallway that ran between all the baggage areas.
Schlicher told FoxNews the shooter dawned a Star Wars shirt, but most of all, he saw the gun he held.
Standing in silence, the shooter unloaded his gun. Reloaded. And began shooting again, Schlicher said. At one point, the shooter was just 15 feet away from the Beavercreek native, who stayed on the ground with his wife and mother-in-law until police arrived.
“My wife took a sweater from my mother in law and applied pressure to the man next to us, he’d been shot in the head,” he told FoxNews.
For what seemed like four to five minutes, a barrage of shots fired around him and his family, he recalled. When the shots ceased, pools of blood spilled underneath people and a man laid dead next him.
“It was oddly quiet after it happened,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, the emotion. I don’t know what’s happening.”
Authorities and witness said after carrying out the act, the suspect threw his gun and laid on the ground. Santiago, an Army National Guard who served in Iraq, was immediately taken into custody.
With the airport shut down, all flights were cancelled to the Ft. Lauderdale hub. The Dayton International Airport did not have any scheduled flights to or from the Ft. Lauderdale airport, but both Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport and Columbus had scheduled flights to the impacted airport.
“Our hearts go out to Ft. Lauderdale during this terrible event,” said Linda Hughes, the spokeswoman for the Dayton International Airport.
The Dayton airport has 23 to 26 officers on staff. Hughes said all security personnel undergo training, and the airport has a specific protocol for emergencies like an active shooter situation.
The spokeswoman would not share the details of the airport’s active shooter contingency plan, as to not compromise protocols during a real situation. The basics for travelers? Run, hide, fight.
“That is the very basic plan for an active shooter,” she said. “You know whether you’re traveling through a bus station or in an airport, travelers certainly have to be vigilant.”
It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition. Passengers can transport unloaded firearms in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. They have to tell the airline about the firearm and ammunition when checking their bags at the ticket counter.
The motive of the shooting is under investigation.
“This could well be someone who is mentally deranged, or in fact it could be someone who had a much more sinister motive that we have to worry about every day, and that is terrorism,” said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. “We can’t conclude that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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