OKLAHOMA CITY – Will Rogers World Airport is back open after a violent shooting took the life of one of their employees.
On Tuesday afternoon, emergency crews were called to the airport after witnesses reported hearing gunshots.
Officials found 52-year-old Michael Winchester, a Southwest Airlines employee, had been shot.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but succumbed to his injuries.
Immediately, the airport was put on lock down as officers, deputies and SWAT team members began searching for the alleged shooter.
Several hours later, Oklahoma City police confirmed that the suspected shooter was found dead inside a pickup truck on the second floor of the airport’s parking garage.
Officials say it appeared that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
On Tuesday night, sources close to the investigation confirmed with KFOR that the man responsible for the deadly shooting is Lloyd Buie.
Detectives say they were able to determine that the alleged suspect, Buie, was a former Southwest Airlines employee who resigned from his job in April of 2015.
He was hired as a ramp agent in Kansas City in November of 1999 and resigned last year.
Southwest Airlines told KFOR that Buie was “exhibiting signs and symptoms of being under the influence of alcohol while at work one day.” Southwest asked that he submit to tests, but he decided against it and resigned.
Winchester served as the Southwest ramp supervisor and spent 29 years with the airline.
It was a tough day at the airport on Wednesday as normal operations resumed.
Airport staff said crisis counselors were on site and Southwest Airlines staff from Tulsa and Dallas have come to help.
“Certainly everybody’s heart is hurting today, particularly the Southwest Airlines folks. This is a person that has been in the airport for a long time and it’s just a really difficult thing to have this happen,” said Will Rogers World Airport spokesperson Karen Carney. “Like anything , you’ve got to continue on and move forward with your job and part of that is getting all the flights out, getting those people disrupted yesterday, getting those travelers back on planes.”
After the shooting, the airport was shut down for more than four hours. Airplanes were not allowed to fly in or fly out.
Airport officials said the impact was big, affecting dozens of flights.
“I was pretty much out of limbo at that point because I didn’t have a place to stay,” said Terry Johnson.
He was in Oklahoma City for work, leaving for the airport to return home when he heard the news.
“It’s not fair for people to have to live in fear or die prematurely for someone else’s actions,” said Johnson.
He was finally able to fly out Wednesday morning.
He said his heart goes out to the victim’s family and hopes investigators get answers.
“This is going to be one of those things that we’re probably we’ll never know all the answers,” said Carney. “I think that’s going to make things more difficult because we won’t know all the answers, but I’m very grateful police are working hard on this.”
Southwest Airlines released the following statement in response to the shooting:
“The Southwest Airlines family is deeply saddened by the passing of our Southwest family member and we extend our heartfelt sympathies and support to his family and Southwest co-workers at this time.”