Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Florida airport shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Estebán Santiago (centre) is led from the Broward County jail for an arraignment in federal court yesterday


One by one, the suspect in the Florida airport shooting spree in which five people were killed and six wounded listened yesterday as a judge detailed each of the 22 charges against him. Then, Esteb·n Santiago pleaded not guilty.

Santiago, 26, stood in chains in a red "max custody inmate" jumpsuit as US Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer took the unusual step of reading the entire 17-page indictment aloud in court with repeated emphasis on the victims' names. After each count, Santiago said he understood and was asked if he realised that he could get the death penalty if convicted.

"Yes, I do," he replied.

Santiago, an Iraq war veteran who lived in Anchorage, Alaska, was taken into custody shortly after investigators say he opened fire in a baggage claim area on January 6 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

He is being held without bail on charges of causing death or bodily harm at an international airport, causing death during a crime of violence, and using a firearm during a crime of violence. His court-appointed attorneys declined comment after yesterday's hearing.

According to the FBI, Santiago flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale with a 9mm Walther handgun and two ammunition clips in a case in checked luggage. Authorities say he picked up the case, loaded the gun in a bathroom. and came out, firing randomly at other travellers.

Santiago was arrested after firing 15 shots. The FBI says that he told agents that he did the shooting because of some form of government mind control, later saying that he was inspired by videos and chatrooms linked to the Islamic State.