Alleged Fort Lauderdale Shooter Claims He Chatted Online With Islamic State

Jan 17, 2017

The man accused of killing five people and wounding six more in a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport earlier this month told FBI agents he had been communicating with people involved with or inspired by the Islamic State in online chat rooms.

FBI Special Agent Michael Ferlazzo took the stand at Esteban Santiago’s detention hearing Tuesday morning in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. Ferlazzo said Santiago told him in an interview at around 10:30 pm on the day of the shooting that he had been communicating with Islamic State supporters on the dark web.

In interviews earlier that day with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Santiago had claimed to hear voices and to be a victim of government mind control. He also told this to FBI agents in November, when he went to the FBI offices in Anchorage, Alaska. In the later interview, though, Ferlazzo said he did not mention voices or mind control.

Santiago was hospitalized at the Anchorage Psychiatric Institute for five days after he went to the FBI office in Anchorage. The FBI referred him to Anchorage police, who confiscated his gun and sent him for a mental health evaluation.

Santiago later requested and received his weapon, the same Walther 9 millimeter pistol he allegedly used to shoot people in the airport’s Terminal 2 baggage claim.

At Tuesday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow ruled that Santiago should remain in detention until trial on the grounds that he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. Santiago will appear in court again on Jan. 30 at 11 a.m.