Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooter to get a hearing this afternoon
A Miami federal judge scheduled a Thursday afternoon status hearing for 26-year-old Esteban Santiago. Prosecutors say Santiago flew from Anchorage, Alaska, to Florida on Jan. 6 where he opened fire at a baggage claim area of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Santiago has been indicted on 22 federal charges that could bring the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty.
Santiago told FBI agents after the shooting he was under some form of government mind control. Later, he said the shooting was inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.
The man accused of killing five people at a Florida airport lied about his criminal record on his application to be a security guard in Alaska, and was fired after only a few months on the job because of the state of his mental health.
The new information is contained in the security guard application Esteban Santiago filed last summer for a license from the state of Alaska so he could work at Signal 88 Security in Anchorage.
The state released the application Monday to The Associated Press, which had appealed the state’s initial refusal to release the document made through an open records request.
Phone and email messages sent to Will Serra, listed as Signal 88 Security of Anchorage owner, weren’t immediately returned. A man who only identified himself as Serra’s business partner answered the Signal 88 Security phone Monday and said they would not comment because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
Santiago is charged in the fatal shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Jan. 6. He’s accused of flying overnight from Anchorage to Florida. After arriving, he retrieved his gun from checked baggage, went into a bathroom and came out shooting, killing five people and wounding another six. A trial date is set Oct. 2 in Miami.
Santiago moved to Anchorage from his native Puerto Rico, where he was in the National Guard.
Santiago was charged in a domestic violence case in January 2016 when his girlfriend said he broke through a bathroom door and struck her in the head at their small Anchorage home. He agreed to take part in a deferred sentence program, which included completing a 12-week anger management course. If all requirements were completed by March 2017, the state would dismiss the charges, but he hasn’t completed the requirements.
Santiago listed the domestic violence incident on one line of his July 14, 2016, application to the state for a security guard license, but added, “No charge.”
Then, on Sept. 19, 2016, Serra — the Signal 88 Security owner — filed a status change/disclosure form with the state regarding Santiago that details more of Santiago’s criminal history. The handwritten criminal history is poorly punctuated, but it appears to incorrectly say charges in the domestic violence case were dismissed the same day they were filed.
About six weeks later, on Nov. 7, Santiago showed up at the Anchorage FBI office, complaining of voices in his head and of government mind control. The FBI handed him off to Anchorage police, which took him for a five-day hold at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Santiago gave them his gun for safekeeping so no one would steal it out of his car.
The gun was returned to him in December, and authorities say it was the same weapon used in the Florida shooting.
Signal 88 Security fired Santiago on Nov. 15, just days after he was released from the hospital, according to a copy of the employee separation form Serra sent to the state after the airport massacre.
“Due to Esteban Santiago’s current documented mental illness, affecting his judgment and reason, he is disqualified to be licensed as a (sic) unarmed security officer in the state of Alaska,” the form signed by Serra reads.
However, the form also notes Santiago would be eligible for rehire only “if a clean bill of mental fitness was provided by a licensed medical practitioner.”
The 2016 dates on the license application don’t mix with the recollections of James Foster, who told the AP that he worked with Santiago at Signal 88 Security in 2015. Foster didn’t have a state license to work as a security guard at the time, he said.
State officials say there are no additional documents regarding applications and licensing as an unarmed security guard for Santiago.