According to the FBI, Esteban Santiago, the man who shot and killed five people at Fort Lauderdale, told agents that he carried out the attack in the name of the Islamic State.
It is not clear whether Santiago is part of ISIS or if he is pledging allegiance by staging a terrorist attack in the name of the organization. So far, ISIS has made no announcements regarding Santiago’s acts, which usually occurs after an attack occurs, confirming the organization’s range of action.
The FBI saw it coming
Apparently, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago had participated in a National Guard tour in Iraq. After returning, he suffered from visions and his family assured that he heard voices. When he returned, he told his aunt about being harassed by images of children being killed.
Bryan Santiago, Esteban’s brother, told authorities that Esteban did not get the help he needed, although he did go to a mental hospital, being released four days after admittance. He served from April 2010 to February 2011.
“They had him hospitalized for four days, and then they let him go. How are you going to let someone leave a psychological center after four days when he is saying that he is hearing voices? He talked about all the destruction and the killing of children. He had visions all the time,” stated Bryan to CNN.
Esteban Santiago’s performance in the Alaskan National Guard was discharged for unsatisfactory performance, although he received the Iraq Campaign Medal with a campaign star, awarded for combat duty.
His aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, told interviewers that Esteban stopped calling his family in Puerto Rico, so they lost contact. The first time she heard her nephews name in a long time was at the news, when the shooting was reported.
Esteban Santiago has a history of violent incidents. In January of 2016, he had a fight with his girlfriend, where he even took down the bathroom door. After breaking in, Esteban hit her on the head and proceeded to strangle her. When police arrived, Esteban Santiago ran away.
After being employed by a security firm in Anchorage, Esteban Santiago would surprise FBI agents by claiming to authorities that he was being mind controlled to watch ISIS videos. He arrived at the FBI office, left his son in the car, and brought a gun and showed it to the officer. He was sent away with a warning and, according to FBI agents in Anchorage, Santiago could not be tied to a terrorist organization.
Reportedly, Esteban Santiago was directed to take a mental evaluation test due to his behavior which was deemed by agents as “concerning.” Later in December, Esteban would head down to the police station to retrieve his Walther 9mm, which was the same that he used at the shooting.
He bought a plane ticket from Alaska, stopping at Minnesota and arriving at Florida. When checking in, he declared his handgun in a firearms case. As he arrived at Fort Lauderdale, he picked up the case, hid in the bathroom and loaded the weapon. Five people were killed and eight were wounded that day.
Currently, Esteban Santiago is being held under arrest, charged for performing an act of violence against an agent of international civil aviation and causing the death of multiple persons using a firearm.