By JESSICA YU
On Friday, January 6, 2017, 26-year-old Army veteran, Esteban Santiago, opened fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Broward County, Florida. Santiago is currently being held in custody in Florida and has confessed to planning the assault that killed five and wounded eight. He made his first federal court appearance on Monday where he was charged with counts of causing serious bodily injury to someone at an international airport, using a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime, and causing the death of a person through the use of a firearm. All three of these charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Santiago told investigators that he loaded the gun in a bathroom stall at the airport and shot the first five people he saw while walking through the baggage claim area. Just weeks before, Santiago had visited an Alaska FBI office for a walk-in interview. He claimed that his mind was being controlled by US intelligence. Authorities took his gun away and ordered a mental health evaluation, but Santiago’s confession was not enough to prohibit him from owning a firearm. The gun he used in the attack was the same gun he retrieved from police headquarters a month after his interview.
Santiago was arrested and charged with assault and criminal mischief in January 2016 after getting into an argument with his girlfriend, who told investigators that he tried to strangle her and struck her in the side of the head. His brother, Bryan Santiago, said he believes that his actions were driven by mental issues that surfaced after a ten-month tour in Iraq during his service in the National Guard. His aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, claimed that “He seemed normal at times, but other times he seemed lost. He changed.”