Broward Sheriff's report highlights lessons learned from airport shooting

Nine and a half months after the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting, a new report highlights the lessons learned for law enforcement.

The Broward County Sheriff Office released its review of the response to an active shooter. 

The report says suspected shooter, Esteban Santiago, was paged by Delta Airlines staff to come to the Delta Baggage Service Office "so he could collect the firearm he had checked in a  secured gun case."

Santiago claimed his gun and then walked into the men's restroom and loaded it then began to fire shots in the baggage claim area at Terminal 2, the report says. The Broward County Sheriff said within 85 seconds of Santiago shooting the first victim, a deputy engaged with him and arrested him. The threat appeared to be over, but a series of unexpected issues led to pandemonium 90 minutes later. 

Passengers flooded 911 with calls after hearing over police radio transmissions that shots were fired.

The Broward County Sheriff's report said an hour and a half into the incident, a Customs and Border Protection officer thought he heard two shots fired and told a fire captain who then relayed the message over radio transmission. The words "shots fired" spread like wildfire and caused the news to travel to several different sections of the airport, causing hundreds of passengers to run and flood the tarmacs. 

"Toning down the radio, going with earpieces for their officers as opposed to broadcasting so it's audible would probably have alleviated some of that, but not all of it," said former police chief Andrew Scott. 

Scott said it's not surprising that misinformation led to an overwhelming response of heavily armed police officers. 

"Until that's [shots fired] verified, the police have to act as if there's another shooter," said Scott. 

The report said over 2,000 law enforcement officers from the tri-county area (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) responded to the airport to offer some type of assistance. 

"With the potential of six or seven active shooter incidents being reported at the same time, responding LEOs were parking vehicles in any location near the terminals and garages," said the report. 

The roadways were clogged with patrol cars and civilian cars that had been left abandoned without keys. Forty cars were towed to be moved out of the roadway to allow bus access for the passengers being evacuated. 

"As soon as they [officers] get on the scene, they are out of the car, they are responding to what the situation is and they park wherever they think they can park to get out of the car. That's something that's going to require training and discipline both from firefighters and officers," said Scott.

The Broward Sheriff is already working with Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County agencies to develop a protocol and guidelines for staging area when it comes to "self-dispatching" situations. 

The overwhelming number of LEOs also meant a huge overload for the radio communications system. The system went into a "fail-soft" mode where only partial transmissions were going through. The report highlights the need to expand the technology. 

Passengers were stuck at the airport for hours due to a delay in getting them to an off-site location. The Broward Sheriff said there is a need for a plan to deploy buses to evacuate passengers. 

"The resources necessary to deal with that on a such a large basis such as an airport is actually overwhelming and can be confusing and probably was based on the report we've reviewed," said Scott about the overall response. 

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