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BROWARD (CBSMiami) – On January 6, 2017, Broward County faced a situation encountered in communities across the US — a lone gunman in a public place opening fire.
Esteban Santiago is accused of killing five people inside the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
“Although it was a day that will live in infamy in Broward County, it was one of the finest hours in law enforcement,” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said.
Israel sees the parallels between what happened at the airport and what happened on Sunday night in Las Vegas when authorities say Stephen Paddock fired off round after round into a large crowd gathered for a music festival. Israel says in a situation like that, it’s almost impossible to stop.
“If you have a lone wolf assassin that’s committed to commit great carnage and killing people, there’s really nothing you can do about it,” Israel said.
In the airport shooting, deputies took Santiago down quickly — stopping the threat. In Las Vegas, the shooter had minutes to fire and killed dozens and injured hundreds more before apparently taking his own life.
What it teaches Israel is this: In this day and age whenever you go out to a public place you must be aware of your surroundings.
“You have to look at areas of ingress and egress,” he said. “Who’s around you? You have to look up high, you have to look above. You have to have a plan. Where am I gonna run to? Where can I hide?”
After the airport shooting in Broward, reports were issued on how the law enforcement and the county’s response could be improved. A range of topics emerged — better communications, improved radio capabilities for first responders and how to handle a massive response of law enforcement officers from all over the area that wanted to help.
“We appreciate their desire to get to these events and venues,” Israel said. “But at the end of the day self-dispatching probably makes it worse and not better.”
Broward County is continually playing host to large events like several music festivals on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler told CBS4 News that in light of what happened in Las Vegas they will be reviewing and updating their security plans on all events in the city.
For Israel, he believes while events like the shooting in Las Vegas is virtually impossible to stop, deputies, police, federal agents and firefighters can work together to train for nearly every scenario in the hopes of responding quickly and preventing even more deaths.
“You play as you train and that’s what we have to do,” Israel said. “I have a commitment to never stop the training from this agency.”
Israel said that even though they cannot stop a potential lone wolf killer, they do rely on the public to speak up. If they see someone acting strangely or posting threatening things on social media, they should contact law enforcement. He also said that he believes the Las Vegas massacre should prompt frank and honest discussions in Tallahassee and Washington about commonsense gun control.