FBI Hasn't Ruled Out Terrorism in Airport Shooting
Suspect was a 'changed man' after Iraq service
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2017 6:45 AM CST
This booking photo provided by the Broward Sheriff's Office shows suspect Esteban Ruiz Santiago, 26.   (Broward Sheriff's Office via AP)
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(Newser) – The FBI hasn't ruled out any motive—including terrorism—in Friday's mass shooting at a Florida airport. George L. Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami office, says the agency will track the movements of alleged gunman Esteban Santiago, 26, in what is expected toe be "a long-term, very difficult, complex investigation," the Sun-Sentinel reports. Santiago, an Iraq veteran who reportedly told the FBI's Anchorage field office in November that the government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch ISIS videos, was taken into custody after five people were killed and eight others injured at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. A round-up of developments:

  • Officials tell the New York Times that it is too early to tell whether Santiago's actions were inspired by terrorist groups, though he is believed to have viewed extremist material online.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited the airport Friday evening and condemned what he called a "senseless act of evil." "Whoever is responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of the law," Scott said, per the Guardian. "The state of Florida, the citizens of Florida, law enforcement, will not tolerate evil acts." When asked why he had contacted Donald Trump instead of President Obama for help from the federal government, Scott said this "isn't time to be political."

  • CNN looks at the background of Santiago, who allegedly starting firing after he picked up the gun he had declared in his checked baggage on his flight from Alaska to Florida. He was deployed to Iraq with the Puerto Rico National Guard from April 23, 2010, to Feb. 19, 2011, authorities say. He later joined the Alaska Army National Guard, but was discharged on Aug. 16, 2016 for unsatisfactory performance.
  • An aunt who lives in New Jersey tells NorthJersey.com that Santiago was happy after his son was born in September last year but his mental condition deteriorated afterward. "Like a month ago, it was like he lost his mind," the aunt says. "He said he saw things."
  • The aunt tells CNN that Santiago returned from Iraq a changed man who sometimes seemed lost. He "talked about all the destruction and the killing of children. He had visions all the time," she says. The Times reports that he served with the 130th Engineer Battalion, which cleared roads of IEDs in Iraq. His record suggests he wasn't in combat, though two soldiers from his company were killed in insurgent attacks.
  • Santiago was charged with assault in an incident involving his girlfriend last January, the Los Angeles Times reports. The case was dismissed under a deferred prosecution agreement two months later.
  • FBI agents searched the Anchorage home Santiago shared with his girlfriend and child Friday night, and also evacuated a nearby hotel for reasons that they did not disclose, reports Alaska Dispatch News.
  • The shooting left thousands of people stranded at the airport, some of them stuck on planes for hours while the facility was locked down, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Some 10,000 passengers were taken by bus to Port Everglades, where they were assisted by Red Cross staff.
  • The chief of police at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage tells the Washington Post that the gun was the only baggage that Santiago checked in. He says passengers routinely check in their weapons. " We’re a big hunting state, so we get quite a lot of that," he says, adding that Santiago did nothing unusual at the airport, apart from checking in more than four hours early.

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