By Louis Hoglund
By most accounts, it took less than 80 seconds for a gunman to kill five and wound six people at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6.
But 36 more sustained injuries in the panic, and thousands of others were affected by the incident and subsequent investigation–including Pelican Rapids area’s John Ohman.
He and his wife were in Florida on vacation, and found themselves evacuated to the airfield, and later away from the premises by bus.
“There were about 2,000 people out on the tarmac,” said Ohman, who recounted the story at a recent Pelican Rapids Area Rotary Club meeting. Ohman is an investment advisor, who recently established a local Stephen A. Kohn & Associates office in Pelican. He is also a board member with the Pelican Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Ohmans were never in any real danger, he said. But thousands of people were detained. In his case, from 2 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The shooting was but a brief, tragic moment. But the ensuing panic, uncertainty and securing of the scene impacted probably 10,000 people… “All this disruption because one guy–Esteban Santiago-Ruiz–had problems; and had a gun,” said Ohman.
According to published accounts, the shooter opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol in the airport at about 12:55 p.m. EST, in the baggage claim area. Video showed travelers rushing out of the airport and hundreds of people waiting on the tarmac as numerous law enforcement officers rushed to the scene.
Part of the panic occurred following “unfounded reports of additional gunshots;” the false alarm touched off a brief panic in other terminals.
In pondering the situation, Ohman believes that there should be “reasonable” controls to try to prevent mass shootings–by keeping guns out of the hands of people like the suspect.
In his discussion at the Rotary meeting, he also questioned the view that: if more people legally carried guns, suspects could be disabled and stopped sooner.
In a crisis situation, this may or may not be successful, said Ohman, who witnessed hundreds of people running in a panic at the sight of an armed, uniformed SWAT team officer.
“Who’s shooting at who…who is the bad guy when you have multiple weapons drawn,” said Ohman.
John Ohman, Pelican Rapids, took the above photo at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport later in the day after the Jan. 6 mass shooting, which left five dead and caused panic and turmoil throughout the airport. In the photo, detained passengers are boarding buses after being detained for nearly eight hours.