Florida Airport Gunman Was A Security Guard, Received Mental Health Treatment.
A former US military member suspected of shooting five dead at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale airport had been evaluated for mental health issues, US media reports.
Estaban Santiago, 26, is suspected of opening fire near the baggage carousel about noon Friday after arriving on a flight from Canada and loading his gun in the bathroom.
Five people were killed and eight people were injured in the attack, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said.
US Federal sources told NBC News Mr Santiago was taken to a medical facility for evaluation after walking into the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska last November and claiming that his mind was being controlled by the CIA.
His aunt, Maria Luisa Ruiz, said Mr Santiago was in a “state of desperation”.
“It looks like he lost his mind. He would say that he would see things. I don’t know. So he went to the hospital. That’s what the mother told me, who lives in Puerto Rico,” Ms Ruiz said.
She said he had recently become a father, and that after the birth he was “happy with his baby”.
CNN reports the suspect joined the National Guard in Puerto Rico in 2007, before spending 10 months in Iraq in 2010.
Mr Santiago served as a private first class and combat engineer and received half a dozen medals before being discharged from the Alaska Army National Guard in August 2014 for “unsatisfactory performance”, an army spokesperson told CNN.
Asked whether terrorism was a possible motive, authorities told reporters at a press conference it was “too early” to tell.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson earlier confirmed Mr Santiago had “military ID”.
“We don’t know if it is current, but every time you get a bunch of people like at baggage claim or like outside of TSA (Transportation Security Administration) where you’re going to security or lines at the ticket counter, it’s a soft target,” Mr Nelson told CNN.
Mayor Barbara Sharief said the gunman appeared to have acted alone.
“He was a lone shooter, and we have no evidence at this time that he was acting with anyone else. He is in custody, and we are currently investigating,” she told CNN.
Witness John Schlicher told MSNBC described the shooter as a “slender man” who was “directly firing” at passengers waiting for their bags to come off the carousel.
“I put my head down and prayed,” Mr Schlicher said, adding that his wife gave first aid to someone who had been shot in the head.
Another witness, Mark Lea, 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,” Mr Lea said.
Video posted on social media showed scenes of panic in the wake of the shooting, with people hiding under chairs for protection.
Florida Governor Rick Scott called the attack “a senseless act of evil”.
“Whoever is responsible will held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a media conference.
Governor Scott said Airbnb had activated urgent accommodations to help those affected by the attack.
US President-elect Donald Trump earlier said he had spoken with Governor Scott, and was “monitoring the terrible situation in Florida”.
“Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!” he tweeted.
All airport services were suspended after the shooting.
Hours after the shooting, many passengers were still huddled inside the airport, while awaiting the all-clear.
“The terminals are very full right now, our passengers are sheltered in place, we’ll be working with law enforcement to actually get them released systemically,” airport director Mark Gale said.
Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist hub and beach resort in the greater Miami area.
The airport is the second largest in South Florida, serving as an intercontinental gateway, with Miami International Airport known as the primary airport for international flights in the area.