Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Florida airport shooter heard voices, brother questions why gov't allowed him to keep gun

Published:Saturday | January 7, 2017 | 3:08 PM
Bryan Santiago speaks about his brother Esteban, a man accused of shooting five people at a Florida airport on Friday, in Penuelas, Puerto Rico, on Saturday.

PENUELAS, Puerto Rico (AP):
The brother of a man accused of killing five people at a Florida airport questioned Saturday why his brother was allowed to keep his gun after US authorities knew he'd become increasingly paranoid and was hearing voices.

Esteban Santiago, 26, had trouble controlling his anger after serving in Iraq and told his brother that he felt he was being chased and controlled by the CIA through secret online messages. When he told agents at an FBI field office his paranoid thoughts in November, he was evaluated for four days, then released without any follow-up medication or therapy.

"The FBI failed there," Bryan Santiago told The Associated Press. "We're not talking about someone who emerged from anonymity to do something like this."

Speaking in Spanish outside his family's house in Penuelas, the brother said: "The federal government already knew about this for months, they had been evaluating him for a while, but they didn't do anything."

In recent years, Esteban Santiago — a new dad — had been living in Anchorage, Alaska.

But there were signs of trouble.

Esteban told FBI agents in Alaska that the government was forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, a law enforcement official said Friday. The official was not authorised to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The FBI office in Alaska, which declined to comment ahead of a Saturday news conference, interviewed Esteban Santiago and then notified police, who took him in for a mental health evaluation.

Also, he was charged in a domestic violence case in January 2016, damaging a door when he forced his way into a bathroom at his girlfriend's Anchorage home. The woman told officers he yelled at her to leave, choked her and smacked her on the side of the head, according to charging documents.

IN PHOTO: This booking photo provided by the Broward Sheriff's Office shows suspect Esteban Ruiz Santiago, 26, on Saturday, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. - AP Photo

READ: Suspect in Florida airport shooting had a semi-automatic handgun, to be charged soon

A month later, municipal prosecutors said he violated the conditions of his release when officers found him at her home during a routine check. He told police he had lived there since he was released from custody the previous month. His Anchorage attorney, Max Holmquist, declined to discuss his client.

Bryan Santiago said his brother had requested psychological help but barely received any.

"I told him to go to church or to seek professional help," he said.

Family members have said Esteban Santiago changed after serving a yearlong tour in Iraq. He was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2, his brother said. He grew up in Penuelas before joining the Guard in 2007.

He deployed in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard, spending a year with an engineering battalion, according to Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen.

Esteban Santiago's mother wiped tears from her eyes as she stood inside a screen door Saturday. She said her son had been tremendously affected by seeing a bomb explode near two friends while serving in Iraq.