Florida airport shooter ‘inspired’ by IS jiahdists
MIAMI - A US judge on Tuesday ordered the Iraq war vet accused of shooting five people dead in a Florida airport be held without bail as his court case proceeds.
Esteban Santiago, who also wounded six people in his January 6 shooting spree at the Fort Lauderdale airport, told investigators that he had been visiting "the dark web" to communicate with jihadists and members or sympathizers of the Islamic State group, the local Sun Sentinel newspaper reported.
Santiago appeared handcuffed and wearing the red jumpsuit of a maximum security prisoner to answer questions Tuesday in the court of US judge Lurana Snow.
The day of the incident the accused gunman had arrived in Fort Lauderdale -- a city some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Miami -- on a one-way ticket from Alaska.
Soon after landing around noon that day Santiago retrieved a 9mm handgun and ammunition that he had declared and packed in his checked luggage, then opened fire in Terminal 2 of the busy airport until he ran out of ammunition.
Then he dropped to the ground and peacefully surrendered to a sheriff's deputy.
Prosecutor Ricardo Del Toro told the judge that at various points Santiago "said he carried out the attack because of government mind control," the Sun-Sentinel reported.
However "he later said he did so because of ISIL ... after participating in jihadi chat rooms."
On November 7, the same month in which Santiago left his job with an Alaska security firm, Santiago walked into the FBI's Anchorage office complaining that his mind was being controlled by national intelligence agencies, which were forcing him to watch IS group videos, authorities said.
This "erratic behavior" led agents to contact local police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, FBI agent George Piro told reporters last week.
Santiago will be formally charged with crimes - the most serious of which carries the death penalty - on January 30.
Santiago was born in New Jersey and grew up in Puerto Rico. A former member of the Puerto Rico and Alaska National Guard, he served in Iraq from April 2010 to February 2011 and ended his service in August.
Currently Santiago is being held in solitary confinement under suicide watch at the main Broward County jail.