After the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale airport in January 2017 in which five people died and another six were wounded, the Broward County Sheriff’s office later admitted that they failed to seize control and failed to set up a “unified command structure.” Although it took 90 seconds for sheriff’s deputies to capture the lone gunman, roughly 90 minutes later false rumors of gunfire prompted a stampede for the exits. According to the Sun-Sentinel:
Panicked passengers dove for cover in the terminals, sprinted down jetways onto planes and poured out of emergency exits onto airport tarmacs. In the escape from the initial shooter and the later stampede, at least 53 people were taken to the hospital for heat stroke, chest pains, panic attacks, low blood sugar, trouble breathing and broken bones. Some had been trampled.
As the Sun-Sentinel reported in June 2017, according to a 99-page draft report written by sheriff’s officials, because of the confusion as to who was in charge, with 2,000 law enforcement officers arriving at the airport, various problems erupted: some of the officers left their cars blocking evacuation routes and creating obstacles for other officers, but most importantly trapped the agency’s 44-foot mobile command vehicle, which lost contact with the internet and phone access and couldn’t move.
In addition, the county’s aging radio system was overloaded, so communication was garbled (in one case, a request to “confirm shots fired” was heard as a declaration: “shots fired”), witnesses were held near the dead bodies, traumatizing them; witnesses discussed the attack with each other, possibly coloring their memories of the incident; SWAT had no idea where to land their helicopters; and plainclothes and undercover officers, some of whom were wearing ski masks, ran through the terminals with their weapons drawn.
Although Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel declined to comment when the Sun-Sentinel made an inquiry for its June 2017 report, in April 2017 he had told the Sun-Sentinel his focus was “to make sure nobody else died that day,” adding, “everything was done excellently,” although he represented the scene as “controlled chaos.”