Broward Sheriff Scott Israel was exercising in a Davie park when the message came over the dispatch system on his phone: There was a shooting at the airport.
His first thought: disbelief.
“You hope it was sent in error,” Israel told the Miami Herald. “You read it again and hope it’s not Broward County. You start to digest it. You are angry. You pray.”
And then, Israel said, “a switch flips and you go from all of those emotions as a citizen to being the sheriff of Broward County and leading.”
Over the next several hours, Israel’s leadership was under a microscope, as he faced the biggest nightmare of his career: a shooting rampage at Terminal 2 of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywoood International which left five people dead, stranded thousands of terrified passengers and shut down one of the busiest airports in the nation. In less than 90 seconds, BSO had the suspect, Army National Guard veteran Esteban Santiago, in custody.
A married father of 20-year-old triplets, Israel said he didn’t have time in the moment to reflect on what it would have been like if his own children were there. (His sister-in-law was at another terminal at the time of the shooting, and at one point he spoke to her on the phone and told her that the tarmac, where police had moved many passengers, was safe.)
“I didn’t have the ability to do those things and allow those emotions to take place,” said Israel, who said a deputy drove him to the airport so he could work while enroute. “I was handling an active-shooter scene. I was the sheriff; we were talking about traffic, the SWAT team, an orderly clearance.”