By John Bacon, Alan Gomez and Carol McAlice Currie, USA TODAY NETWORK
The man accused of a bloody shooting spree that left five people dead and six wounded at the international airport here (Ft. Lauderdale) faces a court appearance Monday while the motive for his rampage remains a mystery.
Iraq war veteran Esteban Santiago, 26, is accused of an act of violence at an airport resulting in death, along with two firearms offenses. More charges are likely as the investigation into Friday’s attack continues.
(Police are interviewing Esteban Santiago, who they say is a suspect in the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting that left at least five dead and eight injured. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube)
Yellow caution tape blocked access to some areas of the airport’s Terminal 2 on Sunday. The airport returned to full flight operations, but a combination of factors led to long lines for travelers.
Santiago will appear before a federal magistrate on Monday, when he’ll get a court-appointed lawyer if he needs one.
Authorities investigating the shooting said they had not ruled out a terrorism motive.
George Piro, FBI special agent in charge of the Miami office, has said it was not clear why Santiago decided to fly from his home in Anchorage to carry out the shooting here.
Authorities have conducted almost 200 interviews and are scouring social media, digging for clues that might shed light on what prompted so heinous a crime.
(TMZ Releases Florida Airport Shooting Video. Courtesy of TMZ and YouTube)
TMZ released video that appears to show the suspect drawing a semiautomatic handgun and firing the first shots before he walks out of the camera shot.
The website did not reveal the source of the video. Authorities say he gave himself up after running out of ammunition.
(Learn More, courtesy of Wochit News and YouTube)
Santiago is no stranger to federal law enforcement. In November, he walked into FBI offices in Anchorage and told agents the Islamic State had gained control of his mind and was urging him to fight, a federal law enforcement official not authorized to speak publicly about the incident told USA TODAY.
The FBI conducted a background check and found no connection to terror groups. Santiago was turned over to local law enforcement for a medical referral. He was released after being treated for an unspecified length of time, Piro said.
(Investigation of Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shooting Finds New Details, courtesy of ABC News and YouTube)
Neighbors in Anchorage say Santiago and his girlfriend were neighborly enough — until recently.
“We used to watch the mom sit on the front porch and watch her daughter play while she took care of the baby,” said Pamela VanDyke, whose back stairs and stoop face Santiago’s front door. “They seemed to be so happy.”
Santiago was always pleasant, until October, when some issues began to develop, said VanDyke’s daughter, Brittany Adams.
She said Santiago started parking in the driveway space VanDyke’s property owner had designated specifically for her because of knee and hip surgeries.
VanDyke and Adams said they tried to reason with Santiago but he responded “rather darkly.” About two weeks ago a neighbor had to call the police because Santiago “was having a loud party and then kicked in his door,” Adams said.
“He just seemed to have more parties that got out of hand,” she said.
(Who Is Esteban Santiago? Courtesy of CBS New York and YouTube)
The women wondered if post-traumatic stress combined with seasonal affective disorder could have had an impact on Santiago’s mood change. This is a season of extremely long nights in Alaska, and many residents struggle with the limited opportunity for sunshine.
Family members told The New York Times that Santiago was never quite the same after returning from a nine-month tour of Iraq in 2010.
“After Iraq, something happened,” Hernan Rivera, 70, Santiago’s uncle, told the Times. “When he came back from Iraq, he was a different person.”
(News conference held Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 by the FBI and the Anchorage Police Department on Florida airport shooting suspect Esteban Santiago. Courtesy of Alaska Dispatch News and YouTube)
On Sunday the airport here (Ft. Lauderdale) was bloated with people trying to rebook flights canceled Friday and Saturday. Most of the baggage claim area at Terminal 2, where the shooting took place, remained walled off as cleanup crews replaced carpets and repaired damage from the shooting.
Adding to the problem was a winter storm that has torn through much of the East Coast, delaying many inbound flights, further delaying flights heading out.
Also, several cruise ships returned to Port Everglades just a few miles away, adding a crush of thousands of passengers, many of whom had no idea what had taken place.
“It’s a hat trick,” said Michael Nonnemacher, director of airport operations. He said it will take a week to get the airport back to normal.
Currie reported from Anchorage, Alaska; Bacon from McLean, Va.