Fort Lauderdale Airport Shootings Leaves At Least 5 Dead

Witnesses described a suspect who opened fire inside the baggage claim at Terminal 2, injuring multiple people.
7:55 | 01/07/17

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Transcript for Fort Lauderdale Airport Shootings Leaves At Least 5 Dead
Tragedy and horror at a Florida airport. Still shut down tonight. An active crime scene after a lone gunman began executing strangers at random in baggage claim. Tonight we have new detail on this the suspect, his military background, his possible motives, and the potentially deadly intersection of mental illness and guns. A scene of pandemonium. Shots fired in this building! Reporter: And horror. Just moments after a lone gunman opened fire in the baggage claim area at ft. Lauderdale airport. Leaving five dead, hundreds running in terror. People started yelling and screaming, run, exit, get out of there. Police coming and saying, good down, get down, everyone stay down. Reporter: Law enforcement searching for answers. The citizens of Florida will not tolerate senseless acts of evil. We can't imagine how this ever happened in a state like ours. Reporter: The terrifying ordeal began this afternoon. Authorities say the suspected shooter arrived at ft. Lauderdale airport from Alaska, traveling like any other passenger. He allegedly took out a semiautomatic handgun from his checked luggage, loaded it in the bathroom, and began his cold-blooded killing spree. Bodies were struck down amongst the baggage. Still in shock, this woman describing what she saw. Casings were flying all around us. I had a perfect picture of him coming and walking up and down shooting the people. I mean, I just can't believe that was possible. It was very scary. You didn't know if you were going to get shot. He went towards the right toward carousel twots and 3 and started randomly shooting people at will. No rhyme, no reason. A yes than with his two boys got shot in the wrist. A lady, her husband was killed, shot in the head. Reporter: Nigel Wilson was going through TSA when he heard gunfire. Just about to step through when we heard the shots fire and actually heard people screaming and running towards me. They opened all the Gates and told us to run through. They were screaming run, run, run, the security people. They're shooting, run, leave everything, go. Reporter: Some passengers in a state of panic running across the tarmac to safety. Others sheltering in place. Everybody ducked down and was on the ground. People, we made shields with the tables that we had. A group led us to hide in the kitchen of that airport restaurant, deli. Reporter: Local authorities responding to the scene within minutes as witnesses say the suspect continued his rampage. Till he put the gun down, laid down spread eagle, to surrender. One shooter possibly detained at this time, multiple victims. Reporter: The suspect who was carrying a military I.D. Is now known as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago. This photo taken by eyewitness mark Lee shows him being led away by law enforcement. I just remember seeing his face and thinking, wow, he looks so young. He just had this blank stare. Just kind of really -- just no emotions. Reporter: Despite the quick action of police, the suspected shooter had already taken the lives of five. Injured at least eight others. Michael took this photo of one of the injured from the window of the terminal. I hear a popping noise and somebody says, shots fired. I grabbed two of my children, ran outside. I'm looking at a man and a woman. A man bleeding profusely and the woman who just says, help, help. Reporter: Paramedics then rushing to his side and racing him out on a stretcher. The airport swiftly put on lockdown. Some passengers stranded in planes with little information. What happened here right now, I don't know, we're just hearing it right now. Reporter: Others rushing to safety on the tarmac. The investigation continues. We have area S.W.A.T. Teams in the the Broward sheriff's office S.W.A.T. Team clearing the entire airport. There will be no movement in or about the airport until our S.W.A.T. Teams give me realtime information that it's safe. Right now we're taking this scene is considered fluid and active. Reporter: Authorities do believe he act the alone and because they captured him alive, they hope he'll be able to provide them answers. He's currently in federal custody. Often in lone wolf situations the shooters either commit suicide or they commit suicide by cop. This was a somewhat different scenario. This was a strange ending. Normally it ends very violently, like it starts. By him basically -- it appears he emptied his gun, then lay prone. Giving himself up. Without a fight. Which is a strange conclusion to all of this, that we have to continue to interrogate this suspect. Reporter: Emerging tonight a hazy but disturbing picture of who the shooter was and what might have motivated him. This is a 26-year-old army veteran with a very troubled life. And the more the FBI looks into his background, the more concerned they are. Reporter: Born in New Jersey but raised in Puerto Rico, Esteban Santiago's Instagram account shows a young man proudly in uniform, a member of the army National Guard serving in both Puerto Rico and Alaska. He was deployed to Iraq but then four months ago he was discharged without ever rising above the rank of private first class. That's a sign of a bad soldier. He never rose through the ranks as most members of the military would over the course of a decade. Reporter: And a deeper look into Santiago's social media is raising concerns. His profile statement reads, here's to finding whether or not your mission on Earth is finished -- if you're still alive it isn't. And then at some point last year, Santiago made himself known to the FBI. Santiago actually showed up at the FBI office of Anchorage, Alaska, complaining to agents that the government, the U.S. Government, was forcing him to watch ISIS videos. Agents at the time thought he was incoherent. Barely understandable. And they actually used the law to have him committed for mental evaluation. Reporter: Tonight as he sits in federal custody his motives remain a mystery. Terror has not been ruled out. The FBI and police are looking for clues that his last known address at this trailer park in Anchorage. And at the home of his relatives in union city, New Jersey. There's a lot of investigation that has to occur now, looking back at his social media footprint, looking back at founding members and friends. So we have a lot of work to do to figure out what might have set him off. Reporter: What we do know is he is a licensed gun owner, and today he boarded a flight after checking one bag, a hard case made to carry a gun. It appears that everything was done legally. Reporter: While TSA confiscates hundreds of weapons at checkpoints and carry-ons, a gun owner who follows the rules can travel with a weapon as checked baggage. Once you've packed it correctly, you have to declare it, you have to take it to the airline check-in counter and say, this is my weapon, I want to check it, I want it to go into the baggage compartment so I can get it at the other end of my flight. Reporter: As seen in this instructional video, TSA requires the weapon be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, plastic, wood, or metal, and then locked. Pack all unloaded firearm and firearm parts in a locked part-side container as checked baggage. Reporter: Alongside the weapon you're allowed to pack ammunition as well, which Santiago apparently did. He checked the weapon in with the airline, was able to recover it as he finished his flight in ft. Lauderdale. Reporter: Tonight while airports across the nation are under heightened security, in Florida, thousands of passengers are still stranded. The governor doing his best to reassure a community in shock. My number one priority right now in Florida is to keep everybody safe. But I can tell you, everybody is working hard to find out exactly what happened and to hold whoever did this accountable. I don't ever want this to happen

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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