Broward County

Why did airport shooter have Florida license if he apparently never lived here?

FLL shooting suspect transferred from Broward jail to the federal courthouse for hearing

The gunman who opened fire on Fort Lauderdale airport travelers, leaving a trail of questions about his motive for killing five people and injuring six others, is expected to be ordered held before trial by a federal magistrate judge on Tuesday, J
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The gunman who opened fire on Fort Lauderdale airport travelers, leaving a trail of questions about his motive for killing five people and injuring six others, is expected to be ordered held before trial by a federal magistrate judge on Tuesday, J

Esteban Santiago, the Iraq war veteran accused of killing five people and severely injuring six others during a shooting spree at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, has a valid Florida driver’s license.

Beth Frady, deputy communications director for Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said Santiago, 26, showed enough credentials to obtain the license in August 2012.

Video shows chaotic scene at baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, including one shooting victim.

Where and how he was able to obtain it isn’t clear. Florida has a requirement that you live in the state to get a license. Though he has relatives in Naples, there is no evidence Santiago ever lived in South Florida.

The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel reported that court records in Puerto Rico — where Santiago once lived and still has family — show he used the Florida driver’s license to obtain a permit to carry a weapon.

It’s not known if the weapon he was able to obtain using the driver’s license was the 9 mm Walther Santiago used on Jan. 6, when he sprayed the luggage carousel area in Terminal 2 with gunfire.

Law enforcement sources say that despite the requirement of residency to obtain a license, the license has no bearing on or relevance to the investigation into the shootings.

Santiago, a longtime National Guard member who served in Iraq in 2010, is believed to have boarded a Delta flight in Alaska on the evening of Jan. 5 and flown to Fort Lauderdale through Minneapolis.

He flew alone with no carry-on luggage, and the only item he checked was the gun believed to be used in the shootings, which was inside a locked case. When he got to Fort Lauderdale, police say, Santiago retrieved the case, went into a bathroom and loaded the gun, then went on his spree as people were retrieving their luggage.

Over the summer of 2016, Santiago was let go by the Alaskan National Guard for some unexplained absences. He lived in Anchorage. In November, Santiago went to the FBI office in Anchorage and told agents the government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch ISIS videos.

The FBI, not finding any ties to terrorism, turned him over to local police. Santiago then had his gun taken away and was sent to a hospital for at least three days for psychiatric treatment.

He retrieved his gun in early December.

Miami Herald staff writer Jay Weaver contributed to this story.

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