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One Year Later: What's Been Done Since The Airport Shooting In Fort Lauderdale?

people running on airport tarmac
David Santiago
Miami Herald
In the panic that ensued at FLL on Jan. 6 2017, many airport workers complained of not knowing the evacuation procedures. Some passengers and employees did make it onto the tarmac.

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of a gunman opening fire inside the baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, or FLL. 

Mary Louise Amzibel, Shirley Timmons, Michael Oehme, Olga Woltering and Terry Andres were the five people who lost their lives that day. Six more people were injured by the gunfire, and more than 35 people were injured in the chaos that followed. 


On Jan. 6 2017, Arnold Freeman was on duty as a wheelchair attendant: 

“Everybody was scattered. Nobody knew where to go,” Freeman said. 

"We were basically locked-down, not being told what was going on," Freeman said.

He still works at the airport, but the shooting prompted him to start working with the contracted workers’ union, 32 BJ SEIU, to advocate for emergency training. The scariest part he said, actually took place after the shooting happened in Terminal 2. 

“As they told us it was safe to leave, there was a rumor of a second shooting and everybody panicked all over again,” Freeman said. 

Throughout the rest of 2017, union members have been working with the Broward County Commission to mandate emergency preparedness training in the event of another shooter.    

Jon McDuffie is an airport security expert. After the shooting, he said he calls airport workers “first responders.”

“All of us have expectations, our families have expectations, that when we leave and go to work, that we’re going to come home safely,” McDuffie said. “And these workers, their families have the same expectations.” 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz held three round-table discussions following the FLL shooting to analyze where response from the airport and county could have been more organized.

"People just needed some of the most basic help," Wasserman Schultz said about the day of the shooting. "I really wanted to have everybody at the table to talk with me and one another about how we could avoid some of the chaos that ensued, much of which occurred after the shooter was taken down — because of the false report of there being shots fired in Terminal 1." 

She said she plans to introduce federal legislation soon, which will address some of the things she learned from those discussions.

The Broward County Aviation Department, on behalf of FLL, is acknowledging the anniversary of the tragedy by releasing a list of changes made since the shooting. That list includes: 

  • New communication protocols with ear pieces
  • An upgraded emergency operations center
  • A safety drill held in Dec. 2017 at FLL, and a safety drill with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department at Port Everglades in Oct. 2017. 
  • Gaining access to what’s called the Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS), which is a tool to communicate with the public in the event of an emergency.
  • To date, there have been 35, four-hour Airport Security Awareness training classes offered, and will continue to be offered to all airport employees.
  • The Broward County Sheriff's Office has reaffirmed its procedures for a controlled deployment during an airport emergency.
  • Beginning development of an airport-wide training program. 
  • Plans for an active shooter live drill in April 2018.

The accused gunman, Esteban Santiago, has pleaded not guilty to 22 charges connected to the shooting. He was scheduled for a trial in federal court in Miami in late January, but that’s been postponed until June.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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