Broward County

Airport shooter pleads not guilty to 22 charges

Esteban Santiago, the man accused of the mass shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport, pleaded not guilty on Monday during a brief hearing in federal court.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Barry Seltzer read the 22-count indictment and asked Santiago if he understood each count. Santiago, wearing chains around his waist and ankles, stood at a lectern in the courtroom. At times, he leaned over to read the indictment as Seltzer read it out loud.

“Yes,” Santiago replied 22 times.

No future court date was set during Monday’s hearing.

On Jan. 26, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against the 26-year-old military veteran from Alaska, charging him with the deaths of five people and the injuries of six others during the Jan. 6 shooting in baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The shootings, captured on surveillance video, created a chaotic scene at the airport and shut it down for the rest of the afternoon and night, stranding thousands of passengers.

While Santiago told FBI agents he was motivated by ISIS, law enforcement agents have found no evidence to support his claims and the indictment includes no terrorism charges.

In November, Santiago had a mental health evaluation after he told the FBI he was hearing voices. He was deemed to be stable and when he asked for his gun back in December, Anchorage police gave it back to him. The firearm was the same weapon Santiago is suspected of using in the shooting.

Prosecutors can seek the death penalty, but that decision will ultimately be in the hands of the U.S. attorney general.

The lawyers for the government and Santiago were ordered to submit a report within two weeks stating if they are ready to go to trial.