Was The Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting Terrorism? Eye Witness Reports Paint A Chaotic Scene
Early this afternoon, at least five people were killed in a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, sources told ABC News. A suspect is already in custody, but eight additional people were injured, and the area where the incident reportedly occurred, in the baggage claim area at Terminal 2, was evacuated. The nature of the violent occurrence has left some people asking: was the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting terrorism?
As reported by NBC News, the gunman appeared to be shooting randomly into the crowd. Calls about the incident began to come in around 12:55 p.m. Eastern Time, and one witness, John Schicher, told MSNBC, "The gunman said nothing and didn't appear to be targeting anyone specifically."
A law enforcement source told CBS News: "the gunman was identified as Esteban Santiago, who was carrying a military identification and was born in New Jersey." He has been apprehended unharmed.
It's too early to tell what the motive behind the attack was, but law enforcement expert Jim Cavanaugh told MSNBC:
You're trying to understand, is this a one-off guy? Regardless of motive, is he alone, or is there something else?
Authorities also investigated reports of additional shots fired at Terminals 1 and 4 and a parking garage. All services at the airport are suspended, and "flights more than 50 miles away from the airport are being diverted."
But reports are conflicting as to whether there were additional shots fired on airport property. The Broward County Sheriff's Office tweeted, "Active search: Unconfirmed reports of addt'l shots fired on airport property."
Whether or not this shooting was a terrorist attack is still unclear. The FBI is supporting the Broward County Sheriff's Office in questioning witnesses, as well as the suspect, who is in custody. But according to a tweet that was retweeted by the Broward County Sheriff's Office twitter account, "FBI not giving details on shooter or weapons used."
With few details on the shooter himself or his possible motives, it's very unclear whether this incident was an act of terrorism. According to an article published by ABC News in October, U.S. governmental agencies use different definitions to define what terrorism is.
The State Department's definition holds that only sub-national groups, not states themselves, can commit acts of terrorism. It states the violence must be politically motivated, but does not mention instilling or spreading fear.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's definition includes the use of illegal force or violence "for purposes of intimidation, coercion or ransom," but does not require it to be politically motivated.
The FBI looks to the Code of Federal Regulations definition: "The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
According to those definitions, opinions differ as to whether this particular incident can be considered terrorism. Little is known about the suspect, Santiago, whether he allegedly committed the act with political or other motivations.
For now, it is still unclear whether the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting can be considered a terrorist incident.