Ft. Lauderdale shooting suspect made confused visit to FBI, said US intelligence forced him to watch ISIS videos
Estaban Santiago, the 26-year-old airline passenger accused of shooting up a baggage claim area at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport Friday, leaving five dead and eight injured, visited the FBI Anchorage field office and told officers he was being forced to watch ISIS videos, law enforcement sources told Fox News.
The visit took place last November. The sources said Santiago told agents that US intelligence had infiltrated his mind and were forcing him to watch ISIS propaganda videos.
"In November 2016, Esteban Santiago walked into the Anchorage FBI Field Office to report that his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency,” a senior federal law enforcement official said.
“During the interview, Santiago appeared agitated and incoherent, and made disjointed statements. Although Santiago stated that he did not wish to harm anyone, as a result of his erratic behavior, interviewing agents contacted local authorities who took custody of Santiago and transported him to a local medical facility for evaluation. The FBI closed its assessment of Santiago after conducting database reviews, interagency checks, and interviews of his family members,” the official added.
Sources also told Fox that Santiago appeared agitated and incoherent during that interview, clearly indicating he was suffering from some kind of mental condition.
After the contact with Santiago, the FBI called local authorities who took custody of him and brought him to a local hospital for a welfare check.
His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently, according to the Associated Press.
The sources also said the November interaction with Santiago prompted the FBI to open an investigation on him that led to interviews with family members, database checks and an interagency review. The sources told Fox that the FBI found no connections to foreign terror organizations.
At a late night news conference Friday, George Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami divison, said authorities were pursuing all leads and had not ruled out terrorism - or anything else.
Santiago's past has included a series of run-ins with the law in recent years.
Almost exactly a year ago, he was charged with fourth-degree assault and damage of property in Anchorage, Alaska where he lived from 2014 to 2016. One of the charges was dismissed by the local prosecutor two months later, according to records found by Foxnews.com.
Santiago's involvement in a domestic violence case was confirmed.
The case was resolved after Santiago agreed to enter an agreement of deferred prosecution. The charges were dismissed by the state prosecutor in exchange for completion of requirements.
Other records show that Santiago was evicted from his apartment in February 2015 for non-payment of $435 in rent. Santiago also has a record for minor traffic infractions, including driving with a broken taillight and another incident in which he was found driving without insurance.
Santiago was born in New Jersey and his family was originally from Puerto Rico--where he served in the Puerto Rico National Guard. He was in the Army Reserves prior to serving in the Alaska Army National Guard. According to reports, he was honorably discharged four months ago from his last post at Fort Greely, Alaska, and his military rank at that time was E3 (Private First Class). He also has a concealed carry permit and had checked in his weapon prior to boarding.
Santiago’s aunt, who lives in Hudson County, New Jersey, spoke
with a reporters from local newspaper The Record of North Jersey on Friday evening.
“I don’t know why this happened,” Maria Ruiz said to
reporters at her home in Union City as FBI agents arrived. The distraught relative said that Santiago had served two years in Iraq and started acting strangely when he returned.
He also became a father in the past year and she told reporters that he “was happy with the kid.”
It was early Friday afternoon when the mayhem first broke out at Fort Lauderdale airport. Five people were shot dead after Santiago allegedly opened fire at a baggage claim area in Terminal Two. Witness and investigators said the suspect shot some of his victims in the head without saying a word.
In the ensuing panic, the TSA received two separate, unconfirmed reports of a separate active shooter, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told Fox News. However, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Friday afternoon there was no indication any additional shots were fired.
Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca posted on Facebook that Santiago was a “passenger on a Canadian flight with a checked gun. He claimed his bag and took the gun from baggage and went into the bathroom to load it. Came out shooting people in baggage claim. There were 13 total shot, 5 dead, 8 transported to hospital.”
Witnesses at the shooting scene told Fox News that the shooter was a slender man with dark hair, likely in his 30s and wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. It is believed that he boarded a plane in Anchorage last night and flew overnight to Fort Lauderdale.
Santiago was taken into custody without incident and was unhurt. Law enforcement never fired any shots, Israel said. "This scene is considered fluid and active." The sheriff said it was not clear why he chose to open fire.
"It was very surreal," John Schlicher, a witness, told Fox News. "He did not say a word.
"He was shooting people that were down on the ground, too."
Fox News' Matthew Dean contributed to this report