(We Are Change) — New details are emerging about the suspect in the shooting that left five people dead at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday. Esteban Santiago-Ruiz has been described as a former soldier who sought psychological treatment after a tour in Iraq, and who told the FBI that he was being forced to fight for the Islamic State.

The suspect’s aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, told NJ Advance Media that Santiago-Ruiz “lost his mind” during a year-long tour of duty in Iraq five years ago, and was hospitalized for mental health issues as a result.

KTUU, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage, reported that Santiago-Ruiz left the Alaska Army National Guard in August 2016, and provided the following list of highlights from his time in the military:

  • Joined the Puerto Rico National Guard Dec. 14, 2007
  • Deployed to Iraq with Puerto Rico National Guard April 23, 2010 to February 19, 2011
  • Was in the Army Reserves prior to joining the Alaska Army National Guard Nov. 21, 2014
  • Received a general discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard Aug. 16, 2016 for unsatisfactory performance
  • He was a combat engineer (MOS: 21B10)
  • When he was discharged, his military rank was E3 (Private First Class)

CBS News reported that the Fort Lauderdale shooting suspect had a history with the FBI, and that in November 2016, he walked into an FBI office in Anchorage and said he “was being forced to fight for ISIS.”


Santiago-Ruiz’s brother, Bryan Santiago, told NJ Advance Media that Esteban was living in Alaska and receiving psychological treatment, but said he was not aware of the specific details surrounding the treatment.

The suspect also had a history with Homeland Security. CBS Miami reported that Santiago-Ruiz was “investigated by Homeland Security Investigations for child porn,” in 2011 or 2012. As a result of the investigation, “three weapons and a computer were seized, but there was not enough evidence to prosecute.”

Detailing the shooting, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca told the Associated Press that Santiago-Ruiz flew in on an Air Canada flight, and then retrieved a gun from his checked bag and loaded it in the restroom.

Air Canada denied this report.

(This is a developing story, and it will be updated as details emerge)