A gunman believed to be an Iraq war veteran has opened fire at a baggage carousel at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, killing five people before being taken into custody.
The gunman had arrived on a flight from Alaska, collected his bag and went to the bathroom to load the gun before coming out and firing.
He killed five people and injured another eight and only stopped shooting when he ran out of ammunition.
The shooter, Esteban Santiago, 26, was carrying US military identification. He had recently struggled with mental illness, including appealing for help because he believed his mind was being controlled by the CIA, which was trying to force him to join ISIS.
— NBC New York (@NBCNewYork) January 6, 2017
Santiago served from 2007 to 2016 in the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaska National Guard, including a deployment to Iraq from 2010 to 2011, according to the Pentagon.
A private first class and combat engineer, he received half a dozen medals before being transferred to the inactive ready reserve in August last year.
Santiago was born in New Jersey and raised in Puerto Rico. His aunt, Maria Ruiz, told NJ.com that Santiago served in Iraq and “lost his mind” and spent time in hospital after his overseas service.
Ruiz said he had recently been working a security job in Alaska, became a father last year and “seemed fine” when he spent time in Union City over the Christmas holidays.
CNN reported that Santiago showed up several months ago at the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska, in November and told officials that his mind was being controlled by the CIA and that it was forcing him to join ISIS.
He appeared agitated and incoherent, and made disjointed statements — and although he said he didn’t wish to hurt anyone, agents were concerned by his erratic behavior and called local police, who took him to a medical facility for evaulation.
The FBI reportedly closed its assessment of Santiago after conducting database reviews, interagency checks and interviews with family members.
Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen said that Santiago was deployed to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, the 1013th engineer company out of Aguadilla.
Heater joined the Alaska Army National Guard, where he received a general discharge last year for unsatisfactory performance.
Santiago is the youngest of six children, and his brother Bryan, who lives in Puerto Rico with their mother, described him as ”pro-American”.
— Pablo E Gil Engell (@pablogilengell) January 6, 2017
After the shooting in Florida he dropped his 9mm handgun upon running out of ammunition and lay face down waiting for law enforcement officers, who had not fired any shots.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said it appeared Santiago acted alone and his motive was unclear.
Mobile phone video posted on social media showed victims on the floor next to an airport carousel, with people on their knees attempting to provide aid.
At least two victims had pools of blood from apparent head wounds.
John Schilcher told Fox News that “the firing just went on and on.” He said Santiago, who was wearing a Star Wars T-shirt, emptied his weapon and reloaded it several times.
— CNN (@CNN) January 6, 2017
Mr Schlicher told MSNBC the shooter as a slender man who said nothing as he “directly fired at us” while passengers waited for their bags.
“I put my head down and prayed,” Schlicher said, adding that his wife gave first aid to someone who had been shot in the head. His mother-in-law used her sweater to tend to another victim but it turned out that person was already dead, he said.
Mark Lea, another eyewitness, told MSNBC “there was no rhyme or reason to it.”
“He didn’t say anything, he was quiet the whole time, he didn’t yell anything,” Lea said.
Monitoring the terrible situation in Florida. Just spoke to Governor Scott. Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2017
The Florida attack was the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States in recent years, some inspired by militants with an extreme view of Islam, others carried out by loners or the mentally disturbed who have easy access to weapons under US gun laws.
There have been several high-profile mass shootings in the US carried out by veterans and active duty soldiers over the past 25 years.
Among them were army veteran Micah Johnson shooting 12 police officers, killing five, at a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas last July, and Major Nadal Malik Hassan, an army psychiatrist who killed 15 and wounded 32 at Fort hood, Texas, in 2009.
– with AAP