MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities man who was heading on a cruise with his wife told WCCO he witnessed the shootings at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Mark Lea, a financial adviser from Elk River, talked while passengers were still on lockdown at the airport after police had taken the gunman into custody. He was in the baggage claim area when shots broke out.
The latest reports from authorities in Florida say five people were killed and eight others were hurt in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.
Investigators believe the shooter — identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago — departed from Anchorage and transferred at MSP. Lea says investigators later told him Santiago was just three rows ahead of him on the plane.
Lea says the attack was an awful and surreal experience.
“It sounded at first like firecrackers, and then we figured out what actually was going on. There was actually a shooter,” Lea told WCCO. “People started yelling and screaming running for any exit they could.”
Lea said the shooter was very quiet as he walked through the baggage claim, emptying what Lea said appeared to be a 9mm weapon.
“He just came in, just randomly started shooting. He had a 9mm. It looked like he had a couple extra magazines — probably a couple dozen shots. There was no rhyme or reason to it. He was not yelling, he was not screaming — he was very quiet,” Lea said. “He was shooting as though he was walking through the woods and doing target practice, only using people as his target,” he said.
Lea said that he estimated the shooter got within 10 to 15 feet of him.
He said that he offered comfort to a woman who had been shot, and whose husband had been shot as well and wasn’t moving, Lea said.
“She had a pool of blood around her a foot in diameter already, so I didn’t want to move her until EMS could get in there,” he said.
Lea later said he spoke with law enforcement — “every agency imaginable,” he said — for about four hours. He says he was swabbed and photographed as well.