Suspected airport shooter Esteban Santiago reportedly told investigators that he planned the shooting on Friday that led to the death of five and wounded six. Santiago, 26, faces numerous federal charges for the killings and is scheduled to appear in federal court today. If convicted, he could potentially get the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Santiago is accused of using a Walther 9 mm, which was reportedly his only piece of checked luggage on his Delta flight from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale, to shoot travelers at the baggage claim area in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He reportedly loaded the gun in the bathroom of the baggage claim area, walked out and started shooting. He fired 10 to 15 rounds before dropping his handgun and surrendering to authorities, sources say.
According to new sources, Santiago got in touch with FBI agents in Alaska two months ago and told them he was hearing voices that were telling him to join a terrorist group. Federal agents reportedly scoured his social media activity and found no evidence linking his alleged actions to terrorism. The agency referred him to Anchorage police after he allegedly told them that he was being pressured by the CIA to watch radical training videos and join Islamic State.
Anchorage police confiscated Santiago’s handgun and sent him to Providence Alaska Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation. A family member told news sources that Santiago was later transferred to Alaska Psychiatric Institute, where he was reportedly treated for a few days but received no follow-up treatment sessions. He retrieved his handgun from the police last month.
It is still unclear why the FBI didn’t put Santiago on the federal “no-fly” list or any watch lists after hearing his alarming statements about terrorism. Investigators said Santiago appears to be a mentally disturbed Iraq war veteran, but they have no idea why he chose the airport in Fort Lauderdale as his target. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who is working with the FBI on the case, pointed at mental health problems as the cause that set off Santiago.
Santiago is a former Army private first class. He served in the Iraq war and also in Puerto Rico and Alaska in 2007 to 2016. He received a “general discharge” from the Alaska Guard last year for “unsatisfactory performance.”