Esteban Santiago: Details emerge of suspect in airport shooting

The man accused of shooting five people to death Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport walked into an FBI office two months ago in a "very agitated state" and told agents the government had taken over his mind, law enforcement sources said.

Esteban Santiago, 26, came to the FBI's Anchorage, Alaska, office and was "acting crazy," telling agents he was being subjected to mind control. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital as a danger to himself or others, the sources said.

The toll in the nation's latest mass murder was five dead, eight wounded by gunfire and another 30 to 40 injured in the panic Friday, said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. Thousands were stranded at the airport, including many in planes on the ground.

Complete coverage of the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

One of the dead was identified as Terry Andres, 62, of Virginia Beach, an employee of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, according to shipyard spokeswoman Terri Davis. Other victims have not yet been named.

Santiago was immediately arrested. He was being held in federal custody and expected to make a court appearance Monday. The airport remained shut down Friday night, although it was expected to reopen at 5 a.m. Saturday.

Santiago is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and was discharged for unsatisfactory performance from the Alaska Army National Guard last August.

George L. Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami office, said investigators will trace Santiago's movements and connections in other states, as well as his reasons for coming to Florida.

"It is a long-term, very difficult, complex investigation," he said.

He also said, "We have not ruled out terrorism."

The shootings took place in the early afternoon Friday at Terminal 2. Esteban took Delta flight 1088 from Anchorage, transferring in Minneapolis to a flight to Fort Lauderdale. He checked only a case for his semi-automatic handgun and no other luggage, according to Jesse Davis, chief of the Anchorage Airport Police and Fire Department.

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, who had been briefed by airport security officials, said the suspect went to the baggage claim area to retrieve his luggage, took the gun from bag, went into the bathroom to load it and then came out and started shooting.

The shooter appeared calm and started to fire, without saying anything, said Mark Lea, a witness who spoke in a phone interview with CBS News. People ducked behind chairs and pieces of luggage, as the shooter squeezed off shots.

Gov. Rick Scott said during a news conference at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that "whoever is responsible" will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

"The citizens of Florida will not tolerate senseless acts of evil," Scott said. "I just can't imagine how this ever happened in a state like ours."

Friday evening, Red Cross vans and box trucks were positioned outside the Renaissance Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, waiting for victims' family members. A total of 30 people were taken to area hospitals, according to BSO.

"Right now the biggest thing to do is pray for them … pray for the individuals that ended up in the hospital," Scott said. "Pray that every one of them survives."

As chaos descended on the airport, law enforcement officers with shotguns and other weapons went through other terminals and parking areas. There were unfounded reports of additional gunshots, setting off panic in other terminals and leading law enforcement officers to reconnoiter areas with guns drawn.

"We just got off the plane and were walking to the arrivals exit, but people just started running and it got crazy," said Celinie Nguyen, of Wellington, a senior at Palm Beach Central High School, who had just arrived on a flight from New York, in a text message from what she described as a safe room at the airport. "There was screaming from the people running."

At a restaurant in Terminal 3, Nichole Geisser and her daughter suddenly heard shouting that there was another shooter, as people stormed the corridor outside the restaurant, screaming and tripping over each other.

"It was surreal. It was completely unbelievable," Geisser said. "It was absolutely every man for himself. It was total panic."

Those trapped in the airport remained there through Friday evening, with food running low and frustration high.

"There are kids everywhere that haven't eaten," said Carole Hennenfent, who said she knew that for the shooter's victims the day was much worse. "There are babies. There are people with medication in checked bags and they can't get their medication. There are hundreds of people in Terminal 2, and they're telling us nothing."

The gunshot victims were taken to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Dr. Ralph Guarneri, the trauma surgeon on call, said all the wounded victims remained alive and in stable condition.

Sen. Bill Nelson, who had been briefed by the Transportation Security Administration, said Santiago had been carrying military ID.

Santiago's aunt, Maria Ruiz, who lives in Union City, N.J., told reporters for NorthJersey.com that he had served two years in Iraq and came back acting strangely. But she said he was happy about the birth of his child last year.

"I don't know why this happened," she said during an interview at her home Friday afternoon. As she spoke to reporters, FBI agents arrived at her home.

His brother, Bryan Santiago, told the Associated Press the suspect had been receiving psychological treatment while living in Alaska.

Although there had been reports of other gunshots, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said there were no other shootings. He attributed the reports to a possible injury of someone trying to flee the scene.

Airport director Mark Gale said staff are "going to go step by step, methodically through the building," before they take any steps to reopen the airport.

Incoming flights more than 50 miles away were diverted to other airports or held on the ground. The airport suspended all services and urged travelers to get in touch with their airlines.

Broward County established a toll-free number for passengers and family members affected by the incident: 866-435-9355. The county established a Family Assistance Center at the Renaissance Hotel, 1617 SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale.

 

Anne Geggis, Sally Kestin, Anthony Man, Caitlin McGlade, Megan O'Matz, Adam Sacasa, Skyler Swisher and Brittany Wallman contributed to this report.

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