January 6, 2017 4:21 pm
Updated: January 6, 2017 11:25 pm

Fort Lauderdale airport shooting: Esteban Santiago identified as shooter

WATCH ABOVE: Authorities identified the gunman who opened fire on travellers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday as Esteban Santiago.


Esteban Santiago, 26, of Anchorage, Alaska, has been identified as the alleged gunman that killed at least five people and wounded at least eight others in a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson told MSNBC that Santiago had a military ID and handgun with him when he allegedly opened fire inside Terminal 2, which serves Delta Air Lines and Air Canada. It’s still unclear if the ID belonged to Santiago or to someone else.

A verified photo of Esteban Santiago, who has been identified as the alleged gunman in a shooting that killed at least five people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6, 2017.

“He was carrying a military ID, what that indicates – it could be somebody else’s, it could be not a current one, so that we don’t know,” Nelson told MSNBC.

Santiago served in the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaska National Guard from 2007 to 2016, the Pentagon said.

He’s a private first class and combat engineer who received six medals before he was transferred to the inactive ready reserve last August.

Story continues below

READ MORE: ‘He said he saw things’: relatives of Florida airport shooter reveal mental health issues

Santiago received a general discharge from the Alaska National Guard for unsatisfactory performance in 2016, spokesperson Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead said.

The Pentagon said he went AWOL on numerous occasions and was later demoted before he was discharged.

The suspect was deployed to Iraq with the 130th Engineer Batallion from 2010 to 2011.

Maria Ruiz, Santiago’s aunt, told the Bergen Record newspaper that “it was like he lost his mind” when he returned from Iraq.

“He said he saw things,” she added.

VIDEO GALLERY: Ongoing coverage of Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

Alaskan court records show an Esteban Santiago, born March 16, 1990, had lived in Anchorage since 2014.

Anchorage Police Department (APD) spokesperson Jennifer Castro confirmed to CBS-affiliate KTVA that “Esteban Santiago Ruiz” is a resident of Anchorage.

Santiago moved to Alaska after living in Puerto Rico following his return from Iraq, The Record reported.

He studied in Puerto Rico but couldn’t find work. Ruiz said he “really liked the military.”

Criminal history

Santiago has a criminal history in Alaska for minor traffic violations including operating a vehicle without insurance and a broken tail light.

He was also charged with assault and criminal mischief in connection with a domestic violence case in January 2016, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Santiago’s girlfriend told police that he attempted to bash the door to her bathroom, according to a criminal complaint cited by the newspaper.

A police officer arrived to find the bathroom door off its frame. His girlfriend said he hit her on the side of her head and attempted to strangle her.

READ MORE: Here’s how the alleged Fort Lauderdale gunman could have had a gun in an airport

The officer, however, said he didn’t find any injuries on her person.

Santiago was later accused of violating the conditions of his release after he was found at his girlfriend’s home despite being ordered not to attend the property without any police present.

WATCH: Suspected Fort Lauderdale shooter Esteban Santiago had been getting treatment for “psychological problems” according to his girlfriend and brother.

Relatives say that Santiago, who became a father in September, was undergoing psychological treatment in Alaska.

Two months ago, he told FBI agents in the state that the government was controlling his mind and forced him to watch videos about the Islamic State terrorist group, according to a law enforcement official.

The New York Times reported Thursday that law enforcement officials were probing whether Santiago had mental issues and heard voices that told him to commit violence.

‘No Canadian connection’

The Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. confirmed to Global News that the shooter did not arrive in Fort Lauderdale on a Canadian flight.

“The suspect did not fly from Canada and was not on a Canadian flight,” Christine Constantin, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. We understand from officials he was on a flight originating in Anchorage transiting through Minneapolis and landing Fort Lauderdale. There is no Canadian connection.”

Earlier, Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner told the Associated Press the suspect was a passenger on a Canadian flight.

“He came out shooting people in baggage claim.”

“He checked his bag and took the gun from baggage and went into the bathroom to load it,” LaMarca said in a statement. “He came out shooting people in baggage claim.”

Broward County officials said the shooter had been taken into custody “without incident.”

“The shooter is in custody, he is unharmed, no law enforcement fired any shots, the subject is being interviewed by a team of FBI agents and Broward County homicide detectives,” Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Friday afternoon.

WATCH: Updates on Fort Lauderdale shooting

Global Affairs Canada says it is closely monitoring the situation.

“We are in contact with local authorities and stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens if needed,” Global Affairs said in a statement. “No further information is available at this time.”

READ MORE: Fort Lauderdale airport shooting: What Canadian travellers need to know

President Barack Obama was briefed on the shooting, according to the White House.

President-elect Donald Trump says he is monitoring the situation in Florida and has spoken with Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

“Monitoring the terrible situation in Florida. Just spoke to Governor Scott. Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!” Trump tweeted.


  • With files from the Associated Press and Reuters

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.

Global News