There were red flags everywhere regarding Esteban Santiago, the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooter, but nobody connected the dots until they had the benefit of hindsight.
In fact, just two months ago, Esteban practically turned himself in to the FBI, who confiscated a gun he had with him…but gave it back to him a month later. Four weeks after that, Esteban boarded a flight from Anchorage to Ft. Lauderdale, checking only one piece of luggage: his gun.
As the Sun-Sentinel reports, Emerging details raise ever-more troubling questions about why Esteban Santiago was allowed to have and keep a gun, then check it on a flight.
No gate agent or security official stood in his way.
Just two months earlier, he had told authorities he was delusional.
In November, Esteban walked into the FBI building in Anchorage and told authorities in Alaska he was delusional, having “terroristic thoughts” and believed he was being influenced by ISIS.
“During our initial investigation we found no ties to terrorism,” said Marlin Ritzman, the agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Anchorage. “He broke no laws when he came into our office making comments about mind control.”
The 26-year-old Santiago, a Iraqi war veteran and an Anchorage resident, was agitated and incoherent when he visited the FBI office Nov. 7. He had a loaded magazine on him but left his gun and infant son in a car, Ritzman said. Santiago told agents he did not wish to harm anyone.
The FBI contacted the Anchorage Police Department, which transported Santiago to a mental health facility. The department took his weapon and “logged it into evidence for safekeeping,” Tolley said.
The FBI closed its assessment of Santiago after reviewing government databases and checking any interactions with law enforcement around the country. “He was a walk-in complaint,” Ritzman said. “This is something that happens at FBI offices around the country every day.”
Which begs the terrifying question… how many more Esteban Santiagos are there in the country? How many have shown up in FBI and other law enforcement offices and have had their cases closed? Well, we do know of others…
Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter was known to the FBI as early as 2013.
The San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook had contacts with six people in Orange County, Calif., whom federal authorities had scrutinized at some point in recent years for their apparent ties to terrorism — but he didn’t raise any flags either. And then there’s the question of how his wife, Tashfeen Malik, was able to get her fiancee visa with a fake address on the application.
Heck the Russian government warned the U.S. about Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev more than a year-and-a-half before he and his brother carried out their attack.
One would hate to think there are serious flaws in our FBI system — but of course this is the same FBI, under James Comey, which could find no reason to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton.
It’s very discomfiting to know that even with a system of checks and balances, security clearances and other measures, madmen are still able to carry out their deeds.
But then again evil always finds a way.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]