I-Team: Months after Fort Lauderdale airport shooting report reveals major problems with response

Poor communication system was a major issue
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 16, 2017

When a gunman opened fire at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, it sent massive chaos through the baggage claim area. Five dead at least six wounded. Passengers weren't the only ones experiencing pandemonium.

The I-Team got an after action draft report from the Broward County Sheriffs Office and it identifies at least 75 things that went wrong.

"The negatives are quite glaring and frankly should've been anticipated," says retired Tampa Police officer Jim Diamond.

He has nearly 50 years experience in law enforcement and explosives. He currently trains other local departments.

"Potentially this could've created a whole lot more fatalities other than just the shooter himself."

The report highlights massive communication failures, radio systems crashing, SWAT teams in helicopters not knowing where to land, multiple agencies responding without communication. It even states the SWAT team was denied access to blueprints of the building. It also reveals alerts were going out 2 hours after the incident creating even more chaos. And that crime scene staff were not prepared for a secondary response and exposed to potential harm.

When we asked Diamond how likely Tampa Bay could have some of those problems, he says, "Oh it's extremely likely. You still have multiple agencies with different radio systems everything from vhf to uhf to 800 megahertz all of which are not compatible with each other."

At Tampa International, new Airport Police Chief Charlie Vazquez says they upgraded their radio system to 800 megahertz last year.

Chief Vazquez says, "That gives us the inner operability with other agencies and also allows more radios to function without the system crashing."

However Diamond says some area agencies don't have the technology and it's not compatible. Which is why he's been pushing for a statewide emergency radio system where all first responders across the state can be on the same page during severe cases.

When asked why the state doesn't have one yet Diamond replied, "A lot of it has to do with money. Who's gonna fund it? Priorities and budgeting. And the other, quite honestly, is bickering between agencies."

Chief Vazquez says one advantage Tampa has over Fort Lauderdale, "The biggest advantage we have in Tampa is we have our own police department our own officers assigned to this location alone who are dedicated here."

Officials at Tampa International have been meeting with Fort Lauderdale officials about their response.  They're planning a massive active shooter training scenario involving various local law enforcement in the fall.


Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning Investigative Reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team.

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