The FBI has announced that Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago flew from Alaska to Florida with the intent to carry out a mass attack. From the Associated Press:
FBI Agent George Piro said Santiago spoke to investigators for several hours after he opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun that he appears to have legally checked on a flight from Alaska.“Indications are that he came here to carry out this horrific attack,” Piro said. “We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack. We’re pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack.”
Investigators are combing through social media and other information to determine Santiago’s motive, and it’s too early to say whether terrorism played a role, Piro said. In November, Santiago had walked into an FBI field office in Alaska saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, a law enforcement official said.
White authorities haven’t ruled out terrorism as a possible motive, Santiago’s family is saying he had mental problems which seemed to begin during his tour in Iraq. His mother told the AP that Santiago had witnessed two friends die in Iraq when a bomb went off near him. A spokesman for the Alaska National Guard confirmed that two soldiers Santiago served with had been killed during his tour of duty. Santiago’s aunt spoke to CNN about the changes she saw in him:
“His mind was not right,” the aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, told CNN in a phone interview from her home in New Jersey. “He seemed normal at times, but other times he seemed lost. He changed.”…
“He talked about all the destruction and the killing of children. He had visions all the time,” said Ruiz, speaking in Spanish during the interview.
In a separate story, the AP reports Santiago told his brother the CIA was sending him secret messages. Concern about the voices he believed he was hearing eventually led him to speak to the FBI:
Esteban told FBI agents in Alaska that the government was forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, a law enforcement official said Friday. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The FBI office in Alaska, which declined to comment ahead of a Saturday news conference, interviewed Esteban Santiago and then notified police, who took him in for a mental health evaluation.
Bryan Santiago, the shooter’s brother, told the AP, “The FBI failed there.” “We’re not talking about someone who emerged from anonymity to do something like this,” he added.
There were other signs that Santiago was spiraling downward. In January 2016 he was charged with assault after an argument with his girlfriend led to him breaking down a bathroom door and striking and choking her.