Lauderdale Shooting Suspect Charged, Could Face Death

Esteban Santiago is charged as authorities try to figure out motive
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 8, 2017 6:04 AM CST
Feds Seek Death Penalty in Lauderdale Airport Shooting
Passengers wait in the departure line at terminal 2 Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, after the airport re-opened. Investigators continued their work downstairs in the baggage area of terminal 2 at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport the day after a shooting.    (Mike Stocker)

While investigators try to figure out the motive of an Iraq war veteran accused of killing five travelers and wounding six others at a busy airport in Florida, the suspected gunman was charged and could face the death penalty, reports the AP. Esteban Santiago, 26, was charged with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death—which carries a maximum punishment of execution—and weapons charges. Santiago told investigators that he planned the attack, buying a one-way ticket to the Fort Lauderdale airport, per a federal complaint. Authorities don't know why he chose his target and have not ruled out terrorism. "Today's charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors," US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said.

Authorities had interviewed roughly 175 people, including a lengthy interrogation with a cooperative Santiago, a former National Guard soldier from Alaska. Flights resumed at the Fort Lauderdale airport, though the terminal where the shooting happened remained closed. FBI Agent George Piro said Santiago opened fire with a 9mm semi-automatic 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." In November, Santiago walked into an FBI field office in Alaska saying the US government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch ISIS videos. The gun he was carrying was returned to him Dec. 8. US Attorney Karen Loeffler said Santiago would have been able to legally possess a gun because he had not been judged mentally ill; he had not been placed on the US no-fly list and appears to have acted alone. Santiago is expected in court Monday. (More Esteban Santiago stories.)

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