Details emerge of suspect in Fort Lauderdale airport shootings
A shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Friday left five dead and eight wounded, as the airport descended into chaos, with passengers taking shelter, flights diverted and unsubstantiated reports of additional gunshots.A suspect identified as Esteban Santiago, 26, was taken into custody without incident. He reportedly retrieved a gun from a checked bag and started shooting. A veteran of service in Iraq, he had been discharged from the Alaska Army National Guard last August for unsatisfactory performance, according to its public affairs office.
© Anna Reed, Statesman Journal-USA TODAY NETW Brittany Adams, left, and her mother Pamela VanDyke live across the alleyway from Esteban Santiago, the man accused of opening fire in a baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport on Jan. 6, 2017.
Two Anchorage, Alaska, neighbors of Esteban Santiago, the man accused of a shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale's airport, say the Iraq war veteran was generally amicable for the few years he lived near them with his girlfriend, Gina Peterson, and their children.
“We used to watch the mom sit on the front porch and watch her daughter play while she took care of the baby boy born last year,” said Pamela VanDyke, whose back stairs and stoop face Santiago’s front door.
Airport Reopens After Deadly Shooting Chaos
Fort Lauderdale airport reopened after Friday's deadly shooting but flight delays and cancellations were set to continue.People take cover outside the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a shooting took place near baggage claim on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Officials are reporting that five people wear killed and 8 wounded in an attack by a single gunman.
“She’d always say ‘hello’ and wave when I took the garbage out. The kids would play in the alley in the summer, and they seemed to be so happy," she said.
VanDyke and her daughter, Brittany Adams, who lives with her, were shocked to learn a member of their quiet neighborhood now stands accused of gunning down five people and injuring six in a baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
But Adams said they did notice a change last October.
That’s when Santiago started parking in the driveway space VanDyke’s property owner had designated specifically for her because of knee and hip surgeries. She and Adams tried to reason with Santiago to stop taking her space, but he responded “rather darkly, and with troubling language” she said. “Right around New Year’s Eve, our next-door neighbor, who lives directly across from them, had to call the police because he was having a loud party and then kicked in his door. He just seemed to have more parties that got out of hand.”
FBI: Airport gunman traveled to Florida for massacre
The Iraq war veteran accused of killing five travelers and wounding six others at a busy international airport in Florida appears to have traveled there specifically to carry out the attack, authorities said Saturday.Authorities said during a news conference that they had interviewed roughly 175 people, including a lengthy interrogation with the cooperative suspect, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, a former National Guard soldier from Alaska. Flights had resumed at the Fort Lauderdale airport after the bloodshed, though the terminal where the shooting happened remained closed.
The women speculated that Santiago’s mood change might be a combination of post-traumatic stress and seasonal affective disorders. Though the amount of darkness varies by location, typically parts of Alaska plunge into longer nights from November through January, and many residents suffer from SAD.
“Or it could be the PTSD combined with alcohol. We see way too much of that up here,” said Adams, who has lived in Anchorage her entire life.
She admits she’s worried now for her previously peaceful neighborhood.
She describes the gentrifying blocks as a place where folks love their kids and walk their dogs and is especially hospitable toward both. She and her mother said children eat wild raspberries off the vines in the summer and play outside all year long, even when temperatures teeter in single digits and snowdrifts reach 5 feet and higher.
“We need to keep better track of veterans coming back from deployment,” VanDyke said. “I know that everyone has a gun in Alaska. I do because I hunt moose, ducks and geese as we follow the seasons and our cravings. But not everyone should. I think there should be a probationary period, say 90 days or so, before someone who’s been checked out for mental illness can get their gun back.”
Frustrated travelers, 20K lost items as Fla. airport resumes operations
Less than 24 hours after Terminal 2 in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was turned into a bloody shooting gallery, things started getting back to normal Saturday. The hundreds of police cruisers and SWAT vans that enveloped every corner of this airport in the hours after the shooting were mostly gone by 5 a.m., when the airport reopened. The empty terminals and sidewalks from the night before were filled with stranded passengers fighting to find new connections.
Adams said their family has lost too many friends and family members to mental illness, alcohol and ultimately suicide. The city and county need to do more, she said.
In a press conference Saturday, the Anchorage field office of the FBI and the Anchorage Police Department reported that Santiago walked into the local FBI office in November and reported that “his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency.
Appearing agitated and incoherent, he rambled. He was referred to the local police department, which contacted an area mental-health agency. They would not name the local agency, which admitted Santiago for evaluation and later released him.
Santiago was able to have his gun legally returned to him Dec. 8, local officials say. This was made possible by federal law, which requires that a gun owner be “adjudicated as mentally ill,” or formally judged prior to a denial of his or her gun-carrying rights, said Karen Loeffler, the U.S. Attorney for Alaska.
“He asked for help, told someone there was a problem,” VanDyke said. “How did he ever get his gun back?”
For veterans, Alaska offers space and a safety net .
There was plenty of help available to Esteban Santiago before he left for Fort Lauderdale, where the FBI says he shot five people. But he had to want it.A young combat vet, Santiago lived for several years in this town of 300,000 before he boarded the plane that took him to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the FBI says he shot five strangers at the baggage claim. Santiago showed signs of serious mental illness and a propensity for violence the year before the trip, investigators say. Federmann wondered whether he had signed up to get mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There is good help available for vets, he said, but they have to take it.