Man at Orlando airport pointed 'simulated firearm' at officers, police say

Hourslong standoff ends without injuries

By Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. - A man brandishing a simulated firearm at Orlando International Airport prompted an hourslong standoff and a massive police response before surrendering peacefully, the Orlando Police Department said.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said officers received a 911 call at 7:28 p.m. about a man with what appeared to be a gun at the rental car area on level one of Terminal A.

"What we did really well was the quick response. Officers were here within minutes," Mina said, adding that hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Central Florida aided in the response.

Police repeatedly stressed during the incident that there was never an active shooter situation and no shots were fired.

Mina said it was clear to responding officers that the man, identified as Michael Wayne Pettigrew, 26, was having some sort of mental health crisis. Pettigrew served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2009-2012, Mina said.

"The subject made several comments, pointed the firearm at the officers said, 'Shoot me, shoot me,' actually pointed the gun at his head imploring the officers to shoot him," Mina said.

Because the simulated firearm was so realistic, officers did not know that it wasn't an actual weapon until after Pettigrew was arrested. Mina said officers quickly convinced Pettigrew to put the object down and speak to negotiators.

"Our negotiators did a phenomenal job of talking with the subject for about two hours and finally got him to peacefully surrender. The entire incident was contained to this area, the rental car area," Mina said.

He said there was no rush to make an arrest because there were no passengers in the area. Pettigrew was taken into custody at 10:01 p.m. No one was injured during the incident.

"UPDATE: Gunman is in custody. Everyone is safe," the Police Department tweeted at 10:08 p.m.

Pettigrew will be held under the Baker Act to receive mental health services. Police said he faces a charge of aggravated assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer.

[Airport standoff arrest report: Man tells worker to call 911, asks to speak to president]

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher said operations in Terminal B were fully functional during the standoff, although some planes delayed landing as the situation was unfolding.

He applauded local law enforcement and airport personnel for their efforts.

"You couldn't have a better group of people dealing with what was truly, very dangerous situation," Kruppenbacher said.

The airport was fully functional as of 11 p.m. 

Witness video from the scene shows officers with their guns drawn yelling, "Put it down, bud, put it down" and "We're gonna help you, man."

A separate witness video, embedded at the top of this story, shows an officer pointing a gun at a man who is sitting on the ground with his head in his hands. 

"It ain't worth it," an officer tells the man in a video a witness filmed while hiding behind a counter.

The Florida Highway Patrol said at 8:30 p.m. that all roads leading to the airport were shut down. Roads were reopened but congested around 10:45 p.m.

The airport tweeted at 9:15 p.m. that entrances were open, but congested. Passengers should contact their airline to find out the status of their flight. 

"With ongoing events, (the Federal Aviation Administration) has placed a Traffic Management Program in effect for arriving flights. Arrivals may be delayed at departure point," the airport tweeted at 9:41 p.m.


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