FORT LAUDERDALE: An Iraq war veteran took a gun out of his checked luggage and opened fire in a crowded baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale’s airport on Friday, killing five people, months after he showed up at an FBI office behaving erratically.
Esteban Santiago, 26, who was taken into custody immediately following the shooting and questioned at length, was expected to face federal charges in the shooting rampage, said George Piro, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in Miami.
Piro said investigators had not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the rampage and were reviewing the suspect’s recent travel.
Santiago, who had served in the US military, had arrived in Ft. Lauderdale shortly before 1pm local time on a connecting flight from Alaska, authorities said, when he retrieved a 9mm semi-automatic handgun from his checked luggage and began firing indiscriminately.
Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said on Twitter that the gunman went into a restroom to load his weapon and came out firing. Witnesses told MSNBC television he only stopped after running out of ammunition, at which point he surrendered to police.
A White House spokesman said President Barack Obama had spoken to Scott and Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief and had extended his condolences to the loved ones of the victims.
Piro said that Santiago had turned up at an FBI office in Anchorage in November of last year behaving erratically and was turned over to local police, who took him to a medical facility for a mental evaluation.
A federal law enforcement official said that Santiago told agents at the Anchorage office in November that his mind was being controlled by a US intelligence agency, which was ordering him to watch the militant Islamic State group videos.
Esteban Ruiz Santiago
Santiago served from 2007 to 2016 in the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaska National Guard including a deployment to Iraq from 2010 to 2011, according to the Pentagon.
A private first class and combat engineer, he received half a dozen medals before being transferred to the inactive ready reserve in August last year.
An aunt said he came back from his deployment “a different person,” MSNBC reported.
Airport shooting suspect had mental health issues
The man police say had a history of mental health problems some of which followed his military service in Iraq and was receiving psychological treatment at his home in Alaska, his relatives said Friday after the deadly shooting.
“Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good,” his uncle, Hernan Rivera, said. In recent years, Santiago a new dad, family said had been living in Anchorage, Alaska, his brother, Bryan Santiago, said from Puerto Rico. Bryan Santiago said his brother’s girlfriend had recently called the family to alert them to his treatment.
Courtesy : Dawn News