Florida may not have been Fort Lauderdale shooter Esteban Santiago’s original destination, according to new media reports. Authorities are still trying to piece together the series of events that led to Santiago killing five people and injuring six more at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport earlier this month. ABC News now reports that Santiago had originally booked a New Year’s Eve flight to New York City but scrapped those plans at the last minute.
Santiago booked a flight to New York City (which he canceled before purchasing a Florida plane ticket a few days later instead), but authorities are still not sure what his intentions were. ABC News reported New York City counterterrorism officials are looking into whether he planned on staying there or transferring to another flight. If he was, in fact, planning an attack there, officials believe he was deterred because of the city’s heightened police presence during the holiday.
In addition, reports continue to indicate that Santiago suffered from mental health problems. In November, Santiago had reportedly walked into an Alaska FBI field office to say he had been forced to watch ISIS videos. Because of the claim and Santiago’s demeanor, investigators looked into Santiago’s past but discovered no links to any terrorism activity. Santiago’s former girlfriend told ABC News that his tour in Iraq and his father’s death affected him:
“He wasn’t the same after he came from Iraq and after his father. There was something in his voice that wasn’t right. He needed to tell somebody something, he couldn’t, he just didn’t dare to…We had let [Department of Veterans Affairs] know that he was having some mental problems, that he wasn’t feeling alright and they did nothing. They didn’t do anything.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not comment on Santiago’s former girlfriend’s comments. John Cohen, a former member of the Department of Homeland Security and ABC News consultant, said investigators will be careful with their questioning as “[they are] dealing with people who have underlying mental health issues, who are self-connecting with extremist causes and are murdering people in furtherance of some perceived grievance.”
(Via ABC News)