Is the Florida shooter an ISIS terrorist or an unstable homicidal maniac?
Esteban Santiago, the man who fatally shoot five people and wounded six others at a Florida airport, told investigators that he was inspired by Islamic State (ISIS) websites and chatrooms, authorities said at a hearing Tuesday.
FBI agent Michael Ferlazzo testified at a bond hearing that Santiago mentioned after the shooting that his mind was under some kind of government control. Later in the interview he claimed to have been inspired by ISIS-related chatrooms and websites, although it is not clear if the FBI has been able to corroborate any terror-related claims.
US Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow set a January 30 arraignment hearing for Santiago to enter a formal plea. Snow ordered Santiago kept in custody as a risk of flight and a danger to the community, which Assistant US Attorney Rick Del Toro said was clear from his actions at the airport.
“He has admitted to all of the facts with respect to the terrible and tragic events of Jan. 6,” Del Toro said. “These were vulnerable victims who he shot down methodically.”
Santiago could get the death penalty if convicted of federal airport violence and firearms charges that resulted in death. His public defender, Robert Berube, said Santiago would not contest the pretrial detention order.
Investigators say Santiago legally brought a gun box containing his weapon and ammunition as checked luggage for his flight, then retrieved it at the Florida airport and went into a bathroom. After loading the gun, authorities say, he came out firing randomly and then laid down on the floor after using all 15 bullets in two clips.
Is Santiago Stable?
Much of the hearing focused on Ferlazzo’s testimony about what Santiago said after the shooting and what records from Alaska reveal about him.
Santiago, an Iraq war veteran, was a member of the Puerto Rico and Alaska National Guard.
It was previously reported that Santiago visited the FBI office in Anchorage last year, complaining about hearing voices and supposed CIA mind control, which led Anchorage police to seizing his gun temporarily and a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital.
At the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Ferlazzo said, records show Santiago was given anti-anxiety medications but no prescriptions for drugs that would treat serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia. He was released after a five-day stay with no restrictions that might prevent him from possessing a gun, and his weapon was returned by police.
“He was deemed to be stable,” the agent testified.
In the post-shooting interviews, Santiago at first repeated claims that he did it because of government mind control, but later told investigators he had been visiting chatrooms and internet sites frequented by ISIS or those inspired by the Islamic terrorist organization.
“It was a group of like-minded individuals who were all planning attacks,” Ferlazzo said.
The FBI is examining Santiago’s computers and other devices as well as those of family members, but so far agents have not confirmed any terrorism ties.
According to a report by Jihad Watch, Santiago joined MySpace under the name “Aashiq Hammad” and recorded Islamic music on the site three years before going to Iraq as a US soldier. Among the songs recorded by “Aashiq Hammad” is one titled “La ilaha illAllah,” Arabic for “There is no God but Allah,” and the first words of the Muslim declaration of faith, the Shahadah.
A clip posted online shows him making the notorious ISIS salute.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff