The Fort Lauderdale Shooting And Esteban Santiago – Another Example Of Mental Health Breakdown In 2017

Wilfredo LeeAP Images

This Sunday afternoon, January 8 at approximately 4:03 p.m. eastern time, NBC News reported on a video released by TMZ (below, discretion advised for mature content). The video depicts the Iraq War veteran walking along the baggage claim concourse at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, only to pull a handgun from his waistband and start shooting. NBC News continued to report that the abrupt incident killed five and injured an additional six individuals.

As a result of federal charges of violence against aviation officials, Santiago may face the death penalty, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. Marlin Ritzman, the FBI agent in charge of the Anchorage, Alaska FBI field office said in a statement to the press that as far back as November 2016, Santiago approached the intelligence agency and ‘walked into the Anchorage FBI office to report that his mind was being controlled by US intelligence agencies.’ Another government official present indicated that Santiago had not been ‘adjudicated’ as mentally ill, allowing him to keep his firearm after this November incident.

FBI special agent Marlin Ritzman speaks during a press conference in Anchorage, Alaska
Marlin Ritzman, FBI special agent in charge of the agency's Anchorage, Alaska field office, speaks during a news conference Saturday, January 7, 2017. [Image by Mark Thiessen/AP Images]Featured image credit: Mark ThiessenAP Images

According to a report by the Washington Post, investigators are analyzing Santiago’s electronic devices and digital content to determine whether there is any link to the Islamic State or their sympathizers. Santiago complained to the FBI that the government was forcing him to watch videos created by the Islamic State, known commonly to the public as ISIS.

George L. Piro, the FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Miami office has stated that they ‘have not ruled out anything,’ during a briefing.

We continue to look at all avenues, all motives for this attack. And we continue to look at the terrorism aspect as a motive.

– George L. Piro, FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Miami, Florida office.

Esteban Santiago’s relatives expressed concerns about his mental health, some of which appearing to have stemmed from his service in Iraq with the Puerto Rico National Guard. His aunt, Ruiz Rivera, told the press simply,

“He lost his mind.”

Esteban Ruiz Santiago, photograph taken by Broward Sheriff's Office.
Esteban Ruiz Santiago, the shooter responsible for the attack at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in a photograph obtained from the Broward Sheriff's Office. [Image by Broward Sheriff's Office/AP Images]Featured image credit: Broward Sheriff's OfficeAP Images

CNN reported that the end of Santiago’s military service came after a discharge from the Alaska National Guard. This may have proven a contributing factor to his mental instability.

During this time of increased global unrest, so-called “lone wolf” attacks such as this do nothing to allay public concern, especially when an atrocity like Santiago’s attack at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport occurs on U.S. soil. According to a report released in April 2016 by Gallup, American concern about crime has spiked to a 15-year high, with 53 percent of U.S. adults saying they “worry a great deal” about crime and violence, up from 39 percent in 2014, an increase of 14 percentage points; this is the highest figure Gallup has reported since March 2001.

Sarah Graham shared with CNN that she and her family were only 100 feet from Santiago during the attack.

“When we first heard the shots we had no idea what was happening until everyone started running towards exits,” she wrote. “We hid for about 30 minutes and we’re let back inside, under the impression it was all safe.”

Once we were outside, we had to run three more times until we were sure that we were safe.

– Sara Graham, a vacationer who was 100 feet from Santiago during the attack

As the investigation digs deeper and the story behind this tragedy continues to unfold, more information about Santiago’s motives and psychological torment will be revealed.

[Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]