We were again shocked when “random” shootings happened at the FT Lauderdale International Airport on January 6, 2017.
Esteban Santiago-Ruiz joined the Puerto Rican National Guard with parental consent (or perhaps underage), where he served with people he considered his brothers, from 2007 until at least his return from Iraq in February 2011 (he served with the 1013 Engineers, locating and disarming roadside bombs, losing two comrades there).
It isn’t clear why Esteban left his unit in Puerto Rico, although reports confirm he transferred to the Army Reserves before moving to Anchorage, Alaska. In Alaska, Santiago had a girlfriend and a baby boy, worked as a security guard for “Signal 88” and joined the Alaska National Guard as a specialist (E-4), later being demoted to private first class (E-3) and receiving a general discharge for unsatisfactory performance. Why he was only an E-4 in Alaska is a question we might ask, although it appears he hadn’t finished high school before enlisting, and perhaps still doesn’t have that degree.
Reporters suggest Esteban traveled to Florida to conduct the shooting, although no one seems to know why he had a Florida driver’s license and an active duty identification card on his person when he was detained there.
Although he had several run-ins with the law in Alaska, including a visit to the FBI, where he claimed the military was controlling his mind and making him watch ISIS videos, he didn’t commit any weapons violations and evidently was cleared to have his weapons returned to him after some treatment.
On January 5, he boarded a redeye from Anchorage, destined for Minneapolis, checking his firearm and several magazines of ammunition in a locked container (as permitted by law and Delta luggage rules). He caught Delta flight 2182 to Ft Lauderdale, arriving on January 6 before noon and gathered his case at terminal 2, baggage carousel 3. From there, Esteban proceeded to a men’s room, where reports suggest he removed the Walther 9mm and loaded a magazine, leaving the case in the bathroom and securing ammunition for a reload somewhere on his body.
He walked back toward the baggage carousels, removing his weapon and firing as he went. He loaded the second magazine en route, with most casualties from his shooting arriving on Delta flight 1465 from Atlanta at 12:30. Esteban allegedly killed 5, wounding six. There were reports of shooters after Esteban was captured, in Terminals 1 and 4, but investigators have been unable to confirm a second shooter. There have been no suggestions Esteban was targeting anyone on the Atlanta flight, with many reports emphasizing his mind control and ISIS comments. In a strange coincidence, Republican “big wig” and gun advocate, Ari Fleischer, was in the airport and heard the shooting, although he wasn’t a witness or in danger at any time.