Lone gunman's bloodshed followed years of struggle with war experience

FBI identifies 5 victims of Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, notifying next of

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Federal law enforcement identified the five victims of the shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and were in the process of notifying their families on Saturday, according to the FBI. 

FBI agent George L. Piro, who is in charge of the FBI Miami field office, did not release the identities of the victims to the press. But the members of the Transfiguration Catholic Church in Atlanta identified a victim on Facebook as Olga Woltering.

She was traveling with her husband, Ralph Woltering, who survived the shooting. Terry Andres from Virginia Beach also died. He was traveling with his wife, who also survived. There were six others wounded. Authorities said one was set to be released from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. 

As the investigation continued, the accused gunman's mom said the war veteran saw a bomb explode next to two of his friends when he was around 18 years old while serving in Iraq. Relatives said what he experienced in Iraq changed him for life. 

Piro said they were still looking for a motive, but indications were the suspect, Esteban Santiago, traveled to Fort Lauderdale specifically "to carry out this horrific attack."

"The suspect did cooperate with the interview team, which was a joint combined FBI-Broward Sheriff's Office," Piro said. "The interview went over several hours and concluded sometime this morning." 

Although the investigation remains active, Piro said they turned over the crime scene at the airport's Terminal 2 baggage claim area to local authorities about 7:30 a.m. The U.S. Attorney's Office will release a press release announcing the charges against Santiago on Saturday afternoon, Piro said. 

"We have six gunshot wound victims at the hospital, originally yesterday we released that there were eight gunshot victims," Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said. He added that "three of them remained in good condition; three of the victims remained in" the intensive care unit. 

Before he was accused of killing five people, wounding six and sending thousands running for their lives at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Friday, Santiago had a history of mental health issues that followed his military service in Iraq.

"We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack," Piro said. "We're pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack."

Relatives said Santiago was receiving psychological treatment. In November, Esteban turned to FBI agents for help in Alaska. He said that the government was controlling his mind. He feared that he was being forced to watch Islamic State group videos, a law enforcement official said.

"How is it possible that the federal government knows, they hospitalize him for only four days, and then give him his weapon back?" the accused gunman's brother Bryan Santiago said. 

FBI agents were still trying to figure out what drove him to legally check in and check out a bag with Delta Airlines that contained a semi-automatic fire arm. Authorities believe he walked into a restroom to load the gun and then aimed it at the crowd waiting in the baggage claim area at FLL's Terminal 2. 

The troubled war veteran was charged in a domestic violence case in January 2016. His girlfriend, who gave birth to a baby in November, told police he choked her and smacked her on the side of the head. He also damaged a door to force his way into a bathroom at her house in Anchorage. 

She took him back after the incident. A month later, prosecutors charged him of violating the conditions of his release. After police officers found him at her home during a routine check, he told them he returned there after he was released from custody.

Santiago was born in New Jersey and grew up in the southern Puerto Rican coastal town of Penuelas before joining the National Guard in 2007. After serving in Iraq from 2010 to 2011, he served in the Army Reserves and the Alaska National Guard in Anchorage.

He worked one weekend a month with an additional 15 days of training yearly, Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead said. Although the Pentagon said he went AWOL several times and was demoted and discharged for "unsatisfactory performance," he had some successes during his military career.

His military rank upon discharge was E3, private 1st class. For his service in Iraq, he was awarded a number of medals and commendations including the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Authorities were asking relatives to call The Broward County Call Center for information at 1-866-435-9355. The line was open overnight and on Saturday. 

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.