Alleged Florida airport gunman formally charged

Esteban Santiago, 26, an Iraq war veteran, faces a total of 22 charges for his Jan 6 shooting spree at Fort Lauderdale's international airport.
Esteban Santiago, 26, an Iraq war veteran, faces a total of 22 charges for his Jan 6 shooting spree at Fort Lauderdale's international airport.PHOTO: REUTERS

MIAMI (AFP) - The shooter accused of carrying out a deadly attack that killed five people at a Florida airport was formally charged on Thursday (Jan 26) on multiple federal counts that could lead to the death penalty.

Esteban Santiago, 26, an Iraq war veteran, faces a total of 22 charges for his Jan 6 shooting spree at Fort Lauderdale's international airport, which also left six people wounded, according to the indictment by a federal grand jury.

Santiago was charged with 11 counts of performing an act of violence against a person at an international airport, six counts of using a firearm in a crime of violence, and five counts of using a firearm to cause the death of a person.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of death or life in prison.

Santiago has confessed to investigators that he planned the attack. He will appear Monday at a federal court in Fort Lauderdale to hear the charges.

On Jan 6, the accused gunman arrived around midday in Fort Lauderdale - a city some 50 kilometres north of Miami - on a one-way ticket from Alaska.

Soon after landing, Santiago retrieved a 9mm handgun and ammunition that he had declared and packed in his checked luggage, then opened fire in Terminal 2 of the busy airport until he ran out of ammunition.

Then he dropped to the ground and peacefully surrendered to a sheriff's deputy, authorities said.

On Nov 7, shortly after he left his job with an Alaska security firm, Santiago walked into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Anchorage office complaining that his mind was being controlled by national intelligence agencies.

He told the FBI that the agencies had forced him to watch videos of the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, authorities said.

This "erratic behavior" led agents to contact local police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, FBI agent George Piro told reporters.

A former member of the Puerto Rico and Alaska National Guard, Santiago served in the Iraq war from April 2010 to February 2011. He ended his military service in August.