On Friday, January 6th, 2017, Esteban Santiago entered the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and opened fire on innocent travelers who simply wanted to arrive at their destination safely. Prior to the shooting spree, the young Army veteran had gone into the airport's bathroom stall to load his gun after retrieving it from his luggage at baggage claim. It appears that he followed proper protocol for gun check.
Santiago had begun his day flying from Alaska to Minneapolis and, from there, to Fort Lauderdale. For unknown reasons, his initial plans were to fly out to New York for New Year's Eve, but, instead, he opted to take a one-way flight to Florida. Disturbing surveillance videos have since been released and show the beginning moments of the shooting, as Santiago grabs the handgun from his waistband and begins spraying bullets among unsuspecting travelers.
Investigators have since delved into the background of the Fort Lauderdale shooter. At just 26 years old, Santiago has had a very tumultuous life. He was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico shortly thereafter. He served both the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaskan Army. Family members are claiming that Santiago began behaving differently after being stationed for nine months in Iraq. Last November, he entered an FBI Office in Anchorage, Alaska and complained to officials that a U.S. intelligence agency had placed a chip inside of his brain as a means of mind control. He was evaluated for mental health issues, but the FBI did not find any ongoing threats, and he was cleared to go.
Santiago has confessed to the murders, but the question still remains as to why he targeted the Fort Lauderdale airport. He has told investigators several different possible motives, but his story keeps changing. Similar to his November accusations, he says a chip was placed in his head by the CIA, and he was being forced to watch a video on ISIS, which may have driven him to commit this violent act. A solid motive remains unclear.
Santiago is currently detained in the Broward County Jail until he can be transferred to a federal facility. He is being held on charges for which he could possibly face the death penalty. His court hearing is set for January 17.