Video shows moment Fort Lauderdale airport gunman opened fire

Updated 6:04 PM EST, Sun January 8, 2017
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Who is Esteban Santiago?
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Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail as he is transported to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Monday, January. 9, 2017. Santiago is accused of fatally shooting several people at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim and faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he's convicted.
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Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail as he is transported to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Monday, January. 9, 2017. Santiago is accused of fatally shooting several people at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim and faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he's convicted.
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Story highlights

NEW: Mayor says shooter had visited Fort Lauderdale before, attacks was random

Federal charges carrying possible death penalty filed against Esteban Santiago

CNN —  

The gunman walks through the baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, just steps behind a man and two boys. As coolly as one might check a cell phone for messages, he pulls a handgun from his waistband and begins firing, then quickly runs off camera.

Security footage obtained by TMZ shows the seconds before and after a gunman police say was Esteban Santiago opened fire at the airport Friday. As the silent video begins, it shows what could be any baggage claim area in America.

People tugging suitcases behind them pass baggage carts and carousels. The gunman, wearing a blue sweater with black stripes on the shoulders and carrying a jacket in his left hand, enters the screen, draws the weapon with his right hand and appears to fire it three times.

A couple sitting nearby drops to the ground. A woman ducks behind a baggage cart. Several people, seeing nowhere to take cover, dive face-first to the ground.

Reached for comment on the footage, airport spokesman Greg Meyer said, “We are aware of the video on TMZ. There is currently an investigation involving law enforcement looking into the matter.” The Broward County Sheriff’s Office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Santiago confessed to planning the assault that killed five people and left several others wounded, according to a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors.

Two of the injured victims remained in intensive care late Sunday, while the remaining four had been released or were recovering at Broward General Hospital, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

Asked if passengers would experience added security at the airport, Israel said he was more concerned with persuading lawmakers to keep firearms out of the hands of felons, the mentally ill and those on no-fly lists.

“The answer isn’t to beef up airports,” he said. “We’re a free society. We as Americans, we go to airports and stadiums and venues every day of our lives.”

Gun had been confiscated

Federal authorities were familiar with Santiago. He’d set off red flags just weeks ago.

When Esteban Santiago was in an Alaska FBI office in November, saying his mind was being controlled by US intelligence, he left a gun in his car.

(Previously, authorities said Santiago also left a newborn in the car, but Anchorage FBI spokeswoman Staci Feger-Pellessier walked that back Sunday, saying Santiago had his child with him when he walked into the FBI office, and “the child was in constant custody and care of the FBI, inside our facility, until his mother retrieved him.”)

Santiago’s rambling walk-in interview at the Anchorage office was concerning enough for authorities to take away his gun and order a mental health evaluation. But it wasn’t enough to get him mentally adjudicated, which would have prohibited Santiago from owning a gun.

Santiago got the gun back a month later when he retrieved the pistol from police headquarters, and it was that weapon, law enforcement sources told CNN, that he used in the airport attack.

“As far as I know, this is not somebody that would have been prohibited based on the information that (authorities in Alaska) have. I think that law enforcement acted within the laws that they have,” said US Attorney Karen Loeffler.

Santiago also had some legal trouble and was due in court in March.

Who is Esteban Santiago?

Santiago faces three federal charges that each carry the possibility of the death penalty, the US Department of Justice said Saturday.

He will be charged Monday with counts of causing serious bodily injury to someone at an international airport; using a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime; and causing the death of a person through the use of a firearm.

Santiago confessed to planning the attack, according to a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors. Santiago told investigators he bought a one-way ticket to Fort Lauderdale and brought a Walther 9-millimeter pistol and two magazines.

He said he went into a bathroom stall at the airport, loaded the gun and shot the first people he saw, according to the criminal complaint. He shot all the rounds in one magazine and then used the other, the document says.

Suspect Esteban Santiago is being held in federal custody in Florida.
Broward Sheriff's Office
Suspect Esteban Santiago is being held in federal custody in Florida.

Santiago recently began selling his possessions, including his car, and friends and associates noticed more erratic behavior, investigators have learned from interviews with those who know him.

Authorities are examining writings, including online posts, that in retrospect appear to indicate some period of planning, law enforcement officials said.

George Piro, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Miami, said Santiago flew from Anchorage to Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale on a Delta Air Lines flight.

Though authorities do not yet know Santiago’s motive, the FBI has not ruled out terrorism, Piro said, adding that the suspect was cooperating with investigators, who spent several hours interviewing him.

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said law enforcement has told her that Santiago “had some contact here in terms of family members” and had visited Fort Lauderdale and Miami in the past. However, she said, police have told her that Friday’s shooting was a random attack.

’His mind was not right’

Esteban lived in Alaska, where he was a security guard.

At the time, Santiago allegedly yelled at his girlfriend while she was in the bathroom, according to the complaint. He then broke down the bathroom door.

Anchorage municipal prosecutor Seneca Theno said Santiago pleaded no contest to criminal mischief and assault charges. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, the charges would have been dismissed if he complied with the conditions. He was due back in court on March 28.

The military said Santiago’s nine years of service in the National Guard included one 10-month tour of Iraq, where he was awarded a combat action badge.

’He had visions’

Santiago returned from Iraq a changed man, his aunt told CNN on Saturday.

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“His mind was not right,” the aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, said in a phone interview in Spanish from her home in New Jersey. “He seemed normal at times, but other times he seemed lost. He changed.”

She added, “He talked about all the destruction and the killing of children. He had visions all the time.”

Ruiz said she lost contact with Santiago several months ago.

“He stopped calling,” she said. “He wouldn’t respond to my messages. I would call and text. He seemed distant.”

Her family is still in shock, she said.

“Who would have imagined that he could do something like this?” she said. “I don’t say that because we’re family. I say it because he wasn’t like that.”

The suspect’s brother, Bryan Santiago, said he believes the shooting rampage resulted from mental issues that surfaced after the Iraq tour.

Esteban Santiago requested medical help from army and federal agencies, according to his brother. He received some treatment.

The victims

Terry Andres of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was at the airport to begin a vacation with his wife, Ann, and a celebration for the couple – his 63rd birthday was coming up, according to a close friend.

Andres died; his wife was uninjured, said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous.