How the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting spun out of control
The 12 hours of turmoil that engulfed Fort Lauderdale’s airport after a gunman slaughtered five travelers in January was sparked by false reports of gunshots and aggravated by authorities who struggled to manage the crisis.
Security screeners abandoned their posts and ran; a swarm of police officers terrified passengers and jammed the emergency radio system; and airport leaders were unable or unprepared to assist thousands of stranded travelers, a Sun Sentinel investigation found.
It took just 90 seconds for sheriff’s deputies to capture the lone gunman in the deadliest airport shooting in U.S. history. But nearly an hour and a half later, the uneasy calm that had returned was shattered when the false-gunfire reports swept through the airport’s four terminals.
Some of the earliest reports came from law enforcement officers.
“Didn’t you hear that?” a U.S. Customs officer said as he ran through the airport. “Didn’t you hear shots fired?”