Travelers can expect to see beefed up security Saturday at LAX terminals — especially in unsecured locations such as baggage claim areas — in the wake of a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida that left five people dead and eight injured.
The suspect — identified in media reports as New Jersey native Esteban Santiago, who was carrying a military ID — was taken into custody in connection with the Friday shooting, which took place in a baggage claim area of the airport.
Officials in Florida said the suspect’s weapon had been in his checked bag and that he retrieved it, went into a bathroom to load the weapon and came out firing.
Federal law allows people to carry firearms in their checked luggage, according to Los Angeles Airport Police Chief David Maggard.
Following the shootings in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, security measures were quickly beefed up at LAX, though there was no specific threat to the facility.
“We have heard nothing that would indicate a threat to L.A. or our airport,” Los Angeles Airport Police Chief David Maggard said at a Friday afternoon briefing at LAX.
Still, airport police were “closely monitoring the situation” in Florida while keeping in contact with federal, local and regional law enforcement and public safety agencies.
“What we’re doing here (Friday) is we’ve increased our staff significantly,” Maggard said. “We have more police officers in our Central Terminal Area, more people inside our terminals, we’ve increased our canine teams, increased our motorcycle officer teams. We’ve actually held over our day shift patrol resources who would otherwise be preparing to go home today. Until we get more information that would be more specific to what we need to do to evaluate issues here at LAX, we will be waiting to hear more from Fort Lauderdale and we have resources that are very visible we also have resources that aren’t visible.”
While the investigation continued Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a “ground stop” at the airport, meaning all flights bound for Fort Lauderdale were being held on the ground at their originating airports. Flights already in the air and within 50 miles of the airport were allowed to continue, but flights farther than 50 miles were being diverted to other airfields.
Flights bound for Fort Lauderdale were diverted to other airports and numerous flights, including some from LAX, were canceled or delayed. According to airport officials, three arriving flights from Fort Lauderdale took off before the shooting, but three others were canceled. One flight from LAX to Fort Lauderdale took off prior to the shooting and landed at the airport. Four other Fort Lauderdale-bound flights were canceled.
Airport officials urged passengers to check with their airlines Saturday to determine the status of flights.
—City News Service
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