Relatives of the man who police say opened fire at a Florida airport report he had a history of mental health problems and was receiving psychological treatment at his home in Alaska.
Esteban Santiago, 26, retrieved his gun from his bag on the carousel, loaded it in a bathroom of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, then emerged shooting in the baggage-claim area Friday, killing five people and wounding eight, authorities said.
The suspect brought a gun in a checked bag on an Air Canada flight, officials said. “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,” Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca wrote on Facebook.
Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen said Santiago deployed to Iraq in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard, spending a year with an engineering battalion.
The suspect’s uncle, Hernan Rivera, told The Record newspaper: “Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good.”
In recent years, Santiago had been living in Anchorage, Alaska, his brother, Bryan Santiago, told The Associated Press from Puerto Rico. He said his brother’s girlfriend had recently called the family to alert them to his treatment.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene at the airport.
Panicked passengers ran out of the terminal and spilled onto the tarmac, baggage in hand. Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in Friday to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen.
Authorities said Santiago, an Army veteran, had complained that the government was controlling his mind. They said he drew a gun from his checked luggage on arrival and opened fire on fellow travelers.
Bruce Hugon, who had flown in from Indianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage carousel when he heard four or five pops and saw everyone drop to the ground. He said a woman next to him tried to get up and was shot in the head.
“The guy must have been standing over me at one point. I could smell the gunpowder,” he said. “I thought I was about to feel a piercing pain or nothing at all because I would have been dead.”