After a day of passenger panic at Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida, US investigators are trying to establish why a man took a gun out of his checked luggage at baggage reclaim and opened fire, killing five people and injuring eight more.
In custody, the suspected gunman has been identified as Iraq war veteran Esteban Santiago, 26, who reportedly told the FBI in November that voices in his head were urging him to join ISIL.
With nothing to indicate a terrorist motive, mental health is under consideration as a key factor in what Florida’s Governor Rick Scott called “a senseless act of evil”.
“My heart goes out to every family impacted…the families that lost their loved ones and the families and the individuals that have loved ones still in hospital fighting for their life,” Scott told reporters on Friday.
“I have reached out to President-Elect Trump and spoken to him and Vice President-Elect Pence multiple times to keep them informed. And they told me whatever resources that we need from the federal government, that they would do everything in their power to make that happen.”
This evening I visited Broward Health Medical Center. Praying for all victims and their families that were impacted by today’s shooting.— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) 7 janvier 2017
The killing spree ended, say witnesses, when the shooter ran out of ammunition and surrendered.
Santiago served from 2007 to 2016 in the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaska National Guard including a deployment to Iraq from 2010 to 2011, according to the Pentagon.
A private first class and combat engineer, he received half a dozen medals before being transferred to the inactive ready reserve in August last year.
Investigators are checking reports that Santiago, who had travelled from Alaska, may have been involved in an altercation on his flight to Florida.
Flying with firearms is routine and legal in the United States as long as the guns are kept in a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on bags but is allowed in checked luggage.
The suspect was unharmed as law enforcement officers never fired a shot, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters at the airport, adding that it was too early to assign a motive.
“At this point, it looks like he acted alone,” Israel said.
A federal law enforcement official told Reuters that in November Santiago turned up at a FBI office in Anchorage and told agents that his mind was being controlled by a US intelligence agency, which was ordering him to watch ISIL videos.
He was sent by the FBI to a mental hospital and a subsequent investigation turned up no evidence that he had connections to any foreign terrorist organisation, the source said.
US President-Elect Donald Trump expressed his concern at the situation.
Monitoring the terrible situation in Florida. Just spoke to Governor Scott. Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 6 janvier 2017
President Barack Obama said he was ‘heartbroken’ for the families affected.