US Airport shooting suspect appears in federal court
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Esteban Santiago, the 26-year-old military veteran charged with killing and injuring nearly a dozen travelers with a handgun at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, was ordered detained before trial on Monday by a federal magistrate judge.
Judge Alicia Valle also assigned a federal public defender to represent Santiago, a New Jersey native raised in Puerto Rico, after determining he was unable to pay for his own lawyer. His arraignment, when formal charges will be presented, was set for Jan. 23.
Sprawling airports difficult to defend from armed attack
The deadly shooting at Fort Lauderdale’s airport serves as a stark reminder of the challenges of providing security outside checkpoints at sprawling airports. Transportation Security Administration officers scrutinize passengers before they board planes, but those officers are unarmed and located inside the airport beyond airline check-in desks. Armed local police routinely patrol public areas of airports, but sparsely compared to TSA staffing. Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, has moved to limit airport terminal entrances and have more uniformed patrols of public areas in airports, such as arrivals and baggage claim. But the lack of security at terminal doors is a vulnerability that officials have long acknowledged, but that is difficult to remedy because of the prohibitive cost of staffing every entrance. Evidence of the challenge came in the June bombing of Istanbul’s airport, when three men detonated explosives on luggage carts as two approached a security checkpoint, while a third remained outside. The attack, which killed 45 people, was linked to the Islamic State. Security experts said the death toll could have been higher if the airport hadn't posted armed guards at the terminal doors. That move came after March bombings at Brussels airport and a nearby subway station killed 32 people. In November 2013 at Los Angeles airport, a gunman killed a TSA officer and wounded several passengers.
After the 20-minute hearing in Fort Lauderdale, during which Santiago sat in in a sheriff-issued red jumpsuit, he was transferred from Broward jail to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami.
Santiago, who served with the Army in the Iraq War, faces a possible death penalty or life imprisonment on the charges of killing five people and injuring six others with his semi-automatic weapon on Friday in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2 at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
"We're telling you the maximum penalty under the law so you understand the seriousness of the charges filed against you," Valle told Santiago on Monday in court.
Prosecutor Rick Del Toro said he is seeking detention based on Santiago's danger to the community and risk of flight. A detention hearing is set for next week.
Suspected Fort Lauderdale Airport Gunman Was ‘Pro-America’ and in Army, Brother Says
The suspect in Friday’s shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport had served in the military, and his brother told NBC News that he was “was pro-America.” A federal law enforcement source tells PEOPLE Esteban Santiago, 26, who allegedly killed five and injured eight at the Florida airport’s Terminal 2, had a military ID on him when he was taken into police custody. According to the official, he was discharged from the Army last year on a general discharge, with a final rank of E-4. (E-4 is Corporal or Specialist.) According to his brother, Bryan Santiago, the suspect was born in New Jersey, but moved to Puerto Rico at age two, reported the Associated Press. The suspect in Friday’s shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport had
In the weeks and months leading up to Friday's deadly shooting, Santiago had shown signs of mental health problems and been involved in domestic disputes with his girlfriend in Alaska, where he had moved in 2014.
Santiago also told the FBI in Alaska two months ago that he was hearing voices urging him to join an Islamic terrorist group, but federal agents scouring his social media postings have found no evidence linking his deadly rampage to terrorism.
Law enforcement sources said that since the airport shooting, agents have discovered no information on Facebook and other online sites to suggest Santiago was radicalized by the Islamic State or any other terrorist organization. They have not found any extreme militant propaganda downloaded onto or posted to his social media sites that may have driven him to carry out the airport attack, according to sources.
Instead, a profile has emerged of a mentally disturbed man who boarded a plane on a one-way Delta ticket from Anchorage via Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale to take deadly aim at fellow travelers in the baggage claim area. Investigators have no idea why he chose Fort Lauderdale as his target.
Fort Lauderdale airport shooting suspect had visited FBI office in Alaska last year
Esteban Santiago, 26, was detained unharmed after five people were fatally shot.The attack at a quiet baggage-claim area sent people scrambling through the terminals and across the airfield at one of the country’s busiest airports, shutting down all flights while paramedics and federal and local law enforcement officers flooded the scene.
So far, Santiago seems to differ significantly from the "lone wolf" portrait of Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter who was beset with his own volatile mix of mental and personal issues. Mateen, a 29-year-old Fort Pierce security guard, was apparently self-radicalized. He proclaimed an affinity for Islamic extremists in June while he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in the nation's worst mass shooting.
But Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who is working with the FBI on the airport shooting, pointed to mental health problems rather than to any terrorist connection in evaluating what set off Santiago.
"Something has to change," Israel said Sunday on Channel 10 News' "This Week in South Florida." "People who are suffering from mental illness should not be allowed, in my opinion, to purchase or have firearms at any time."
Santiago was charged on Saturday with the killings. The Army veteran, who investigators say planned and carried out the attack on his own, faces a potential death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted.
In the airport shooting, Santiago used a handgun that he retrieved from Anchorage police last month. Officers confiscated it in November while he underwent a psychiatric evaluation. The FBI had referred Santiago to Anchorage authorities after he told them he was being pressured by the CIA to join the Islamic State militant organization and watch training videos.
'A hateful act': What we know about the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting
Authorities are gathering information about the deadly shooting rampage that killed at least five people and injured eight others Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The incident sparked chaos as terrified passengers ran through the airport before police apprehended the suspect without incident.
Santiago was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation, then transferred to the state-operated Alaska Psychiatric Institute. He was treated for a few days but received no follow-up therapy or medication, according to a family member.
Despite the alarming nature of his statements to the FBI, Santiago was not placed on any law enforcement watch lists or on the federal "no-fly" list.
On Sunday, TMZ released video footage that the website says shows the initial seconds of the airport shooting. The 20-second recording posted onto TMZ's website shows a man walking calmly through the Terminal 2 baggage claim as he pulls a handgun from his waistband, starts firing and then runs, while frightened travelers duck for cover.
After running out of ammunition, Santiago dropped his firearm and surrendered to BSO deputies, though that image is not in the TMZ video.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said Sunday that BSO and the airport's security team are investigating who leaked the video, which is a cellphone recording of airport surveillance footage.
"Only a select number of people had access to this video," Sharief told the Miami Herald. "What's troubling about this video being out there is we don't want copycats."
The shooting turned the Fort Lauderdale airport into a massive crime scene, leaving thousands of travelers stranded for hours as squads of BSO deputies, FBI agents and other law enforcement officers searched the facility. The violence reached far beyond South Florida to other parts of the country where the shooting victims had started their travels.
By Sunday afternoon, four of the five dead had been identified by family and friends, along with two who were seriously injured. Law enforcement officials have not publicly named any of the victims.
All four had arrived in Fort Lauderdale on their way to cruise vacations.
In Fort Lauderdale Shooting, Rumors Sowed More Chaos .
Passengers at the Florida airport said that some level of pandemonium is to be expected after a shooting. But the aftermath of a rumor about a possible second gunman, which was debunked relatively quickly, left them bewildered and angry. “Nobody gave us information, and as time went on we were treated more and more like suspects,” Mr. Robertson said, referring to the pat downs by law enforcement and orders for people to raise their hands as they walked from the airport down side roads. “When they decided to clear the terminal — that created terror.
Airport Shooting Suspect Appears in Federal Court
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Fort Lauderdale airport shooting suspect due in court Monday
Esteban Santiago will appear in federal court on Monday to face charges in the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting. ◂ The ABC Action News app brings you the ...