The Iraq war veteran accused of killing five travelers and wounding six others at Terminal 2 of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport once had his gun confiscated by the FBI, but they returned it to him a month later.
Esteban Santiago, 26, was never placed on a no-fly list and was allowed to check his weapon inside of a suitcase prior to the attack last Friday.
Authorities say Santiago flew into the airport from Anchorage, Alaska, with a layover in Minneapolis-St Paul, on Delta flight 2182. Santiago’s gun was stowed inside his only piece of checked luggage, in accordance with TSA regulations.
This past November, Santiago walked into an FBI field office in Alaska and told them the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State videos.
FBI agent Marlin Ritzman said, “He was a walk-in complaint. This is something that happens at FBI offices around the country every day.”
Santiago had a loaded magazine on him that day but said he’d left a gun in his vehicle, along with his newborn child. Officers seized the weapon and local officers took him to get a mental health evaluation. His girlfriend picked up the child.
On December 8, the gun was returned to Santiago by the police. Authorities haven’t confirmed whether or not it was the same gun used in the airport attack.
Santiago had not been placed on the U.S. no-fly list and appears to have acted alone, authorities said.
According to a federal complaint, Esteban Santiago has admitted to investigators that he planned the attack, buying a one-way ticket to the Fort Lauderdale airport. Authorities have yet to determine why Santiago chose that airport or what his motives were for the attack.
Santiago has been accused of an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death, which carries a maximum punishment of execution, as well as weapons charges.
U.S Attorney Wifredo Ferrer announced Santiago’s charges on Saturday, which could result in the death penalty.
Ferrer said: “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.”
Authorities said during a news conference that they had interviewed roughly 175 people, to include a lengthy interrogation with the cooperative suspect who is a former National Guard soldier from Alaska.
The complaint said that Santiago spoke to investigators for several hours after opening fire with a Walther 9mm semi-automatic handgun that he appears to have legally checked on the flight from Alaska. He had two magazines with him and emptied both of them, firing about 15 rounds, before being arrested.
FBI Agent George 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.”
The Pentagon stated that Santiago had gone AWOL several times while serving in the Alaska National Guard.
Santiago served from 2007 to 2016 in the Puerto Rico National Guard and in the Alaska National Guard, which included a deployment to Iraq from 2010 to 2011.
CBS News reported that Santiago had also been investigated as part of a child porn probe in 2011 or 2012, when law enforcement authorities seized three weapons and a computer but didn’t file any charges.
H/T: Daily Mail UK
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