Travellers are evacuated out of the terminal and onto the tarmac after airport shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, January 6, 2017. (Reuters)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – A shooter wearing a Star Wars T-shirt opened fire at a baggage carousel at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday, killing at least five people before being taken into custody, officials and witnesses said.
Five people died and eight more were wounded in the incident, the local sheriff's office said.
The shooter, who said nothing, appeared to be a man in his 20s wearing a Star Wars T-shirt who was shot by police as he attempted to reload, MSNBC reported, citing witnesses.
The Florida attack was the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States in recent years, some inspired by militants with an extreme view of Islam, others who are loners or mentally disturbed who have easy access to weapons under United States gun laws.
About 90 minutes after the attack, when the scene had appeared calm, panic broke out anew with passengers and police running frantically about the airport.
Dozens of police sprinted back and forth with automatic weapons drawn, directing a large group of travellers.
A police officer screamed "Get down, get down!" from a parking garage across the street from the airport terminal, a Reuters reporter witnessed.
John Schlicher, who told MSNBC he saw the attack, described the shooter as a "slender man" who was "directly firing at us" while passengers waited for their bags to come off the carousel.
"I put my head down and prayed," Schlicher said, adding that his wife gave first aid to someone who had been shot in the head.
His mother-in-law used her sweater to tend to another victim but it turned out that victim was already dead, Schlicher said.
The shooter reloaded once for a second burst of shooting, Schlicher said, but he could not say how many bullets were fired.
The shooting took place at the Terminal 2 baggage claim, said a post on the airport's Twitter account.
Mark Lea, another eyewitness, told MSNBC "there was no rhyme or reason to it."
"He didn't say anything, he was quiet the whole time, he didn't yell anything," Lea said.
Security officials corralled passengers underneath jetways and on the runway apron, according to images on cable news networks.
Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for US President George W. Bush, said on Twitter shots were fired and "everyone is running."
"All seems calm now but the police aren't letting anyone out of the airport - at least not the area where I am," he said.
A woman tended to a bleeding, seated man outside an airport building, according to a photo posted on Twitter by a Michigan information technology company.
The Broward Sheriff's Office received a call at about 12:55 p.m. local time about shots fired at 100 Terminal Drive at the airport, the department wrote on Twitter.
All services were temporarily suspended, the airport's Twitter feed said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott was traveling to Fort Lauderdale to be briefed by law enforcement, his office said in a statement.
The FBI's Miami office was "aware of the situation" and in contact with local authorities, a spokesman said in an email. No further information was immediately available.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the second largest in South Florida, serving as an intercontinental gateway, with Miami International Airport known as the primary airport for international flights in the area. (Reuters)