Broward County

Santiago sought help, shooter’s mother tells mayor

Esteban Santiago
Esteban Santiago

In the small town of Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, Mayor Walter Torres met with the mother of Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago on Monday to offer her the city’s support.

“She has been destroyed by this and she feels the pain of all the families of the victims in Florida,” Torres told the Miami Herald. “In many ways, her family are also victims in this.”

Torres said Santiago’s mother, Elizabeth Ruíz, described to him how her son had been having psychological problems and had sought help, including being hospitalized for four days.

Santiago, a military veteran who was raised in Peñuelas, shot and killed five people in the baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Friday. He flew there on a one-way ticket from Alaska, where he had been living. Since then, investigators have been trying to piece together the path that led the 26-year-old former Army soldier and National Guardsman from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale.

Torres said he wanted to make sure authorities could learn from this crisis so that it would never happen again. But he also worried that the media were putting too much emphasis on Santiago’s Puerto Rican roots.

“Yes, he was from Puerto Rico but he could have been from the United States or Latin America,” Torres said. “We have to focus less on where he was from and more on the circumstances that led him to do this, and make sure that it never happens to a young person again.”

Torres said he never met Esteban Santiago, but has met his brother Bryan, who is a boxer in Peñuelas.

Torres said his heart goes out to the victims of the tragedy, but he said Santiago’s family is also suffering through a double crisis of sorts.

“The family is destroyed because, not only did they lose a son, but they’re also suffering over everything their son did,” he said.