Some hid in janitor closets or bushes. Some barricaded themselves in airport offices or storage bins. Others managed to get on a plane.
No matter where they sought cover, 911 dispatchers had a similar message for the callers who flooded 911 after a man opened fire in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s Terminal 2 last month, killing five and seriously wounding six others.
“Get somewhere to hide,” a dispatcher ordered a frantic man calling from Terminal 3.
A new batch of calls released Thursday by the Broward Sheriff’s Office gives a glimpse of the frightening moments after accused shooter Esteban Santiago, a troubled Army combat veteran, started shooting in the baggage claim of Terminal 2, home to Delta Air Lines and Air Canada.
In the beginning, confusion and panic reigned, as people didn’t know what was happening.
“I am in the Fort Lauderdale airport and somebody had a gun and I don’t know what’s going on,” a woman told a dispatcher as she hid in a janitor’s closet.
A dispatcher tried to calm her down: “The police are already there. Just stay where you are and wait for them to guide you.”
The 14 calls released Thursday are considered as “directly related to the shooting” and have been cleared by the FBI, the agency investigating the shooting. Some of the calls came from frantic children who had received calls from their mothers about the shooting.
“My mom is there,” a girl said, trying to fight back tears. “Just please send someone there.”
In almost all the calls, a dispatcher tried to comfort the callers — even though they had very little information to go on.
“There is an active shooter incident at the airport right now,” a dispatcher said to a frightened woman, whose mother was also in the airport. “My best advice to you right now is just to keep mom in your prayers.”
On Tuesday, BSO released a batch of 11 calls that were not directly related to the shooting. In total, 135 calls were made to 911.
There are 11 calls that are still part of the active investigation. Santiago, who could face the death penalty, faces 22 counts, including charges related to the deaths of the five people and the injuries of the six others. Earlier this week he pleaded not guilty.