Esteban Santiago, the 26-year-old veteran accused of killing five people and wounding eight more in an attack at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Friday, was charged Saturday with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death. That makes him eligible for the death penalty, which prosecutors will pursue.
"Today's charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer.
Santiago told investigators he planned the attack in advance, but his motives for targeting the Florida airport have not been determined. Santiago, who has a history of mental illness since returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, was already being prosecuted for domestic violence.
In November, he told FBI agents he was experiencing delusions and "terroristic thoughts," claiming the government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State propaganda. Authorities ultimately returned his gun because he had no ties to terrorism; it is unclear if the gun that was returned is the gun used in the attack.