A lone shooter opened fire Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, killing five people and wounding eight others before he was taken into custody, the Broward County sheriff said.

The suspected gunman appeared to be shooting randomly into a crowd in a lower floor of Terminal 2 as panicked travelers took cover behind chairs - and he only stopped when his bullets ran out, according to witnesses. Multiple senior law enforcement sources identified the suspect as New Jersey born Esteban Santiago, 26, and said he had a military ID on him.

Law enforcement officials told NBC News they believe Santiago arrived on a flight from Canada, picked up his firearm at baggage claim and then began the shooting spree. Federal guidelines allow for passengers to check unloaded guns in a locked case, and also allows for ammunition to be placed in checked baggage.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference the shooter was apprehended without incident, and the situation was "fluid and active" while the airport remained closed. Federal authorities declined to give details about the shooter or his weapon, and said he was being interviewed to determine a motive. No law enforcement officers fired any shots, Israel said.

A sense of panic and fear remained palpable for hours after the shooting, as authorities searched the airport with guns drawn. At times travelers could be seen scattering across the tarmac and taking cover behind cars. It was unclear why they were running and hiding; authorities attempted to assure the public that they knew of no ongoing threats.

The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport, located about 25 miles north of Miami, tweeted the shooting occurred at a baggage claim inside Terminal 2 around 12:55 p.m. ET.

"At first we thought it was firecrackers," said witness Mark Lea, 53. "Everyone started screaming and running."

Lea said the shooter made his way through baggage claim with what looked like a 9 mm firearm and emptied his entire clip. "People were trying to run," he said.

"Once he finished shooting, he walked down by Door 2, threw his gun on the ground, and laid down on the ground, spread-eagle, until the first officer came - which was probably a minute later," Lea told MSNBC. "He was not shot at all, was not wounded."

Traveler John Schicher told MSNBC he had just arrived at baggage claim with his wife and mother-in-law when the gunman started firing just feet away from him.

"He was holding a black handgun and he was just shooting randomly into the crowd," Schicher, who said he was "in shock," told MSNBC. "There were elderly people who were shot and killed, there were two people to my left and two people to my right that were shot."

The gunman said nothing and didn't appear to be targeting anyone specifically, Schicher said, adding that the shooter had time to reload his gun before he was stopped by police.

"He walked over and he was right in our area, like within just feet of us, shooting people. I didn't know if I would be shot or if my wife or my mother-in-law would either," he said.

Schicher said he called 911 after the shots were fired, while his wife administered first aid to a man that had been shot in the head. His mother-in-law used her sweater to put pressure on another man's gunshot wound, but "he was gone already" by that point.

The shooter was wearing a blue "Star Wars" T-shirt, according to Schicher. He didn't get a good glimpse of the suspect.

"I put my head down and prayed," he said. "We stayed down."

In the aftermath of the chaos, cameras outside the airport showed firefighters and other emergency personnel, plus large groups of passengers, standing on a tarmac.

Confusion continued long after the gunman was captured. At one point, travelers began running at another terminal, although officials said there wasn't a second shooter.

"Someone that was leaving the airport in the parking garage thought they heard something that sounded like gunshots," said Mayor of Broward County Barbara Sharief. "Out of an abundance of caution, they thought we should evacuate the area … give it a sweep and make sure nothing else is going on."

Bob Foster was inside another terminal, waiting for his flight, when crews evacuated everyone outside.

"We were told to hit the deck and we stayed there until we were given the green light to leave," said Foster, speaking to MSNBC from an airport tarmac. "Needless to say, everybody's pretty shaken up."

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted that he was at the airport at the time of the shooting and "everyone is running." He later tweeted that "all seems calm."

The airport says over 73,000 travelers pass through each day. The facility is located minutes from residential strips of high-rise condominiums, aging fishing marinas and restaurants crammed tightly together along Hollywood beach.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said agents were going to the scene to help state and local authorities.

A law enforcement expert said authorities will try to determine who the suspect is and whether there are other plots afoot.

"You're trying to understand, is this a one-off guy? Regardless of motive, is he alone, or is there something else?" law enforcement expert Jim Cavanaugh told MSNBC. "We hate to think that way, but that's the requirement for police commanders - to think that way."

Fatal shootings at airports, where security is tight, are unusual. In November 2016, a disgruntled former employee opened fire at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, killing a Southwest Airlines worker.


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