Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Suspected airport gunman became increasingly erratic

Published:Friday | January 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail as he is transported to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday.


Esteban Santiago stood alone in the cold one day last month outside Mom & Pop's liquor store in Anchorage. He was waving his arms and having a terrible argument in the parking lot.

"He'd just be talking to himself ... screaming as if he was having a battle with himself," said Naomi Harden, a clerk at the store, situated across the street from the motel where Santiago lived.

Last week, Santiago got off a one-way flight from Anchorage at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, arriving with a single piece of checked luggage: a Walther 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in a case. He took the gun out in a bathroom, loaded it and opened fire in the baggage claim area, killing five people and wounding six, police say.

After emptying two clips, Santiago lay down on the floor and was arrested, authorities say. He now faces a possible death sentence if convicted. He has yet to enter a plea and is awaiting the assignment of a public defender to his case.

Investigators are trying to establish the motive for the attack.

The 26-year-old Iraq War veteran was usually a quiet and solitary figure, those who knew and worked with him said. But over the past year, he grew increasingly violent, interviews and records show. And in recent weeks Santiago was seen screaming into the night from his motel window, Harden said.