Esteban Santiago was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday, Jan. 6, after confessing to killing five and wounding six after he opened fire at the baggage claim of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
According to the Department of Justice, Santiago has been indicted with 22 total counts. Among them were 11 counts of performing an act of violence, which resulted in bodily harm or death at an international airport, six counts of use and discharge of a firearm in relation to a violent crime, and five charges of death caused by a firearm. If convicted, Santiago could face the death penalty or life in prison, although it is unclear whether the Department of Justice will pursue the death penalty at this time.
Surprising to some, terror-related acts were not among the charges presented against Santiago as the Ft. Lauderdale shooter. This is in contrast to Santiago’s statement to the F.B.I. after the attack, which relayed that he was fighting with ISIS (Daesh).
According to F.B.I. special agent Michael Ferlazzo who testified at Santiago’s bond hearing, Santiago stated that his mind was being controlled by the C.I.A. and that he was talking online with other individuals who were planning similar attacks. It is unclear whether Santiago claimed that he was inspired by the terrorist organization, or whether he was working with them. Esteban Santiago is being held without bond.
Daesh has not claimed responsibility for the mass-shooting.
This was not the first time that Santiago discussed mind control with Federal authorities. Santiago was a decorated U.S. soldier who served in Iraq. According to his family, he became distraught when he returned from service in 2011.
Prior to his return, two fellow reservists were killed by a roadside bomb. Now living in Alaska, Esteban sought mental health support and told F.B.I. agents that he was hearing voices and that the government was controlling his mind. This led to a brief in-patient stay at a mental hospital and a temporary seizure of his gun, which was returned to him after his discharge.
Many experts have hesitated to link Santiago with post-traumatic stress disorder, regardless of his troubled experiences with the armed forces. Instead, the delusions, psychosis and onset seem to be more in-line with schizophrenia, which is unrelated to military service.
It was only during the six-hour F.B.I. interrogation, after the shooting had taken place, that Santiago mentioned Daesh to the F.B.I., perhaps prompting the absence of terror-related charges. Law enforcement sources have stated that nothing in Santiago’s internet history indicates that he was a convert to Islam, or that he had any connection to Daesh.
Although evidence points to another lone-wolf attacker, the media jumped on claims that Santiago was acting on behalf of Daesh. They cemented their story with his keffiyeh-clad image posing with a “jihadist salute” in a story that we have heard too many times.
While research indicates that a majority of lone-wolf violence is inspired by White supremacy and that White extremists have killed more Americans on U.S. soil than Muslim fundamentalists since 9/11, the media rarely projects such acts of violence as terrorism. In contrast, nearly all instances of lone-wolf attacks conducted by Brown men is associated with terrorism.
Timothy McVeigh, James Holmes, and Dylan Roof remain to be seen with a narrative that is in stark contrast to Syed Rizwan Farook, Tashfeen Malik and Omar Mateen. Although all are guilty of egregious crimes against humanity, the lasting impression projected by the “lone-wolf” vs. “terrorist” nuance of the media has imposed a dramatic effect on perceptions of Muslim communities and serve to fuel intolerance in the age of Islamophobia.
While research indicates that a majority of lone-wolf violence is inspired by White supremacy and that White extremists have killed more Americans on U.S. soil than Muslim fundamentalists since 9/11, the media rarely projects such acts of violence as terrorism.
Esteban Santiago does not have the privilege of perceived Whiteness and has systematically been categorized as a terrorist by the media, even when federal agencies report otherwise. Santiago is scheduled for arraignment on Monday. We eagerly await the depictions of Santiago by the news during this time.
If you or someone you know is in need of services related to combat related stress, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and National Center for PTSD have strong resource sections that may be able to help.
If you are in crisis or need immediate support, you have options:
- Call 911
- Go to the nearest Emergency Room
- Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 (text 838255) or Confidential Veterans Chat with a counselor
- Contact the National Veterans Foundation Hotline: 1-888-777-4443
- Contact the Gulf War Veteran’s Hotline:1-800-796-9699