ABC News reports:
It was an attack without warning, made possible by a $278 one way ticket from Anchorage, Alaska to Fort Lauderdale.
Buying the Delta airlines ticket just last Tuesday, Esteban Santiago told his family that he was going to Florida to see a step-brother.
On Friday, 43 minutes after landing, gunfire erupted, leaving five dead and six more injured.
Hours before his first court appearance, Esteban Santiago has told his interrogators that he had been in contact with the ISIS terror group online.
In November, Santiago showed up at the FBI‘s Anchorage office claiming that “his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency,” according to Marlin Ritzman, special agent in charge of that office, who was speaking at a press conference on Saturday.
During that incident, Santiago “appeared agitaged, incoherent and made disjointed statements,” but “stated he did not wish to harm anyone,” Ritzman said.
Overnight a former girlfriend Michelle Quinones told ABC News that Santiago returned from a deployment in Iraq deeply troubled after saying he saw two of his national guard buddies killed in action, but could not get help from the Veterans Administration. His father’s death a few months later was “completely hard” for him as well, she said. “He wasn’t the same after he came from Iraq and after his father…it just really finished him off,” she said.
“We had let veterans know that he was having some mental problems, that he wasn’t feeling alright and they did nothing,” Quinones said. “They didn’t do anything.”
Dept. of Veterans Affairs Spokesperson Randal Noller in Washington confirmed that “Santiago is a Veteran who served in the Army National Guard,” but said he, “is not currently receiving monetary compensation,” and that, “information is unavailable without the consent of the Veteran, in compliance with privacy laws.”
Repeated calls by ABC News during working hours on Monday to the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan went unanswered.
ABC News has learned that investigators have recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop, and the FBI is now scouring it to determine whether the alleged shooter created a jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad.
In his native Puerto Rico, Santiago’s brother, Bryan Santiago, told ABC News on Saturday that the FBI should have done more sooner.
“How is it possible that the federal government let him keep his gun?” the brother said. “All this could have been avoided.”
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