Florida Airport Gunman’s Aunt Says Suspect Began to See Things and ‘Lost His Mind’ About a Month Ago


The alleged gunman who authorities say killed at least five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday was an Army veteran who was born in New Jersey and a recent father who began to have problems about a month ago when a relative said he began to see things and “lost his mind.”

A federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly confirmed the suspect’s name and date of birth as Esteban Santiago, born March 16, 1990.

Santiago was arrested after a shooting spree that began around noon at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and left five people dead and eight people wounded, according to law enforcement officials.

Santiago had served with the National Guard in Iraq and became a father in September, said his aunt, Maria Luisa Ruiz, who lives in Union City. She said that another member of her family had told her that he was the suspect in the Fort Lauderdale shooting.

She said that her nephew had been living in Alaska, where he was able to obtain a job in security. She showed reporters a photo of Santiago at a hospital holding his newborn son in September. Staff at Providence Hospital in Anchorage confirmed that the photo was taken in their hospital.

Santiago wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Disturbed” in the photo. Ruiz said that Santiago, whose mother lives in Puerto Rico, appeared happy after the birth of his son but that something happened to him about one month ago.

“Like a month ago, it was like he lost his mind,” she said “He said he saw things.”

She said that he was hospitalized for two weeks, but she did not have details about his condition.

Ruiz spoke to reporters at her home Friday afternoon before FBI agents showed up at her door and local authorities closed off the street near her home.

“I don’t know why this happened,” she said during the interview.

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SOURCE: USA Today; The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, Keldy Ortiz , Abbott Koloff and Monsy Alvarado