Esteban Santiago, the man charged with killing five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport, told FBI agents he carried out the attack on behalf of ISIS, FBI special agent Michael Ferlazzo testified at Santiago’s bond hearing Tuesday.
The agent did not elaborate on whether Santiago was purporting to be linked to ISIS or simply inspired by the terrorist organization.
The Sun Sentinel has a bit more detail on what Santiago told authorities and it still sounds a bit off:
Esteban Santiago initially blamed his actions on government mind control but later told FBI agents he had been “on the dark web” communicating in “jihadi chat rooms,” with Islamic State terrorists or sympathizers, authorities said in court Tuesday.
During a detention hearing, federal prosecutors said that Santiago, 26, practiced firing his weapon at a gun range in Alaska in the months prior to the Friday, Jan. 6 attack at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
There’s little doubt that Santiago planned this. Practicing at the firing range is further evidence this was premeditated murder. And I’m prepared to believe Santiago is another lone wolf inspired by ISIS, but I can’t help noticing that his current confession to the FBI sounds a lot like the one he made in Alaska last year. In November, Santiago walked into an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska and expressed concern about two things: Government mind control and ISIS. From NPR:
Santiago walked into an FBI office in Anchorage “to report that his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency,” said FBI special agent Marlin Ritzman, at a Saturday press conference. Tolley described them as “terroristic thoughts,” in which “he believed he was being influenced by ISIS.”
After that encounter the FBI sent him off for a mental health evaluation. He was released four days later after it was determined he was stable. Now, once again, Santiago seems to have hit these same two themes (mind control and ISIS). The difference this time might be his mention of talking to people in “jihadi chat rooms.” No doubt the FBI will be working to verify that actually happened.
Santiago is being held without bond. CNN notes that ISIS has not claimed responsibility for his attack thus far.