January 7th, 2017

The Ft. Lauderdale airport shooter

This time, a terrible act of violence at an airport resulting in five deaths seems to have been perpetrated by a person who was mentally ill, perhaps schizophrenic:

[The shooter Esteban Santiago] visited the FBI’s Anchorage, Alaska, office a few months ago and told authorities that an intelligence agency was telling him to watch ISIS videos, according to law enforcement officials.

The officials said Santiago’s associates were concerned because he said he was hearing voices; they had accompanied him to the FBI office in Anchorage.

On Friday, Santiago flew into Florida on a Delta Air Lines flight from Alaska via Minnesota, officials said. He had declared his handgun in a firearms carrying case, law enforcement sources told CNN…

Santiago had purchased two handguns — a 9 mm Glock and a Glock .40-caliber — in the past, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation. It is unknown whether either of these pistols were used in Friday’s attack.

Santiago’s criminal record in Alaska includes three offenses: having no proof of insurance in 2015, a taillight violation in 2015 and a criminal mischief charge, causing property damage of more than $50, in 2016…

The FBI looked into Santiago’s background and saw his military history but found no information to indicate radicalization, officials said. The FBI asked local police to take him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. Santiago voluntarily checked himself in.

Much more information at the link.

There doesn’t seem to have been much of a failure by authorities here, except the failure to predict human nature perfectly. Unless we are going to lock up every unstable person indefinitely, and search for and confiscate the weapons they already own, or ban flying with legal weapons legally stowed in the baggage area, or have an armed guard every few yards in all airports, I don’t see how this one could have been prevented.

In terms of concealed carry of weapons acting as a deterrent, an airport is obviously a zone where an assailant can be pretty sure that only law enforcement officials will be carrying. It’s a conundrum, and I don’t see a solution.

16 Responses to “The Ft. Lauderdale airport shooter”

  1. J.J. Says:

    The solution is not obvious. If it was we wouldn’t be plagued with these attacks.

    That said, I’m wondering why the FBI and local authorities in Anchorage didn’t check to see if he owned guns. Surely a database check would have shown his CCP. Is it unreasonable to ask a mentally disturbed person to give up their guns until they are judged to be stabilized? Is it unreasonable to put a mentally disturbed person who self reported that he is watching ISIS videos on a no fly list until he is stabilized?

    Young, mentally unstable men (and they are not all of ME descent) are the group that are becoming radicalized and committing the lone wolf attacks. The lone wolf attacks are now the primary weapon of the radical Islamist jihad. But we should not pay extra attention to those men because that would be…………PROFILING? Methinks the FBI is prohibited from doing such because they know that Aryan Nation terrorists or Islamophobes are a much bigger danger. NOT!

    There is no perfect defense against the radical Islamists. But we are not doing a very good job.

    The most effective tool is offense.

    Go after the internet radicalizers. This is where cyber warfare can be useful. Surely we know how to do this.

    Go after the radical imams who are preaching Wahhabism. Gather moderate Muslim imams and their followers and help them challenge Wahhabism. Outlaw sharia law and preaching of violence as a means to convert or kill non-believers in Islam.

    Use whatever means the Joint Chiefs deems appropriate to deal heavy blows to terror organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda again and again until they know no rest and no peace.

    Aggressively go after the funding for terror organizations.

    Keep the pressure on continually and don’t let them recoup, reorganize, or rest.

    Recognize that it will take a generation or longer of hard effort to defeat this enemy.

    Well, that’s what I would do.

  2. anonymess Says:

    I think the United States could learn a lesson or two from Israel’s approach to airport/airline safety. Beyond sophisticated technical tools, great reliance is placed on human contact and common sense. If he had had more interaction with highly trained airport security personnel, at check-in or baggage pick-up, Esteban Santiago might have been outed and arrested prior to the shooting attack. The following link is to an article that describes the highly successful Israeli security protocol used at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport–probably the most terror-threatened airport in the world: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-wagner/what-israeli-airport-secu_b_4978149.html

  3. JaneLK Says:

    According to Pamela Geller’s site, this shooting might be terror-related. Santiago was also known at one time as “Aashiq Hammad.” There is even a pic of him, complete with keffiyah. Worth reading about his background, some info confirmed, some info needing confirmation but intriguing nonetheless.


  4. Esther Says:

    We keep hearing the Israeli system isn’t feasible, but lives lost and an entire airport being shut down is a very high price.

  5. blert Says:

    Esteban Santiago also known as Aashiq Hammad had been on the FBI’s radar screen for some time. Why wasn’t he on a watch list? Why wasn’t he put on a no-fly list?”


    So this atrocity WAS jihad.

  6. Big Maq Says:

    Is it just me? In the photos in the media, his beard and how he wears his “scarf” is reminiscent of an “arab” look?

    (Just checked the Gellar link – not sure how much credibility to give that info, but the photos are the same as the MSM have been using).

    Don’t want to stereotype, but if this guy went to the FBI and essentially confessed to being a target for radicalization, isn’t it the mentally disturbed that seem to be the ones who best absorb that messaging?

    I’m not expert in that area, but one wonders if people like this guy, and the dylan roof’s of the world couldn’t be given a little more scrutiny to differentiate them from the benignly disturbed. Especially so, if they are flagged by some level of LE.

    On the other hand, could it be defined narrowly enough that there wouldn’t be such a wide net of targets, or that it opens it up to abuse (e.g. John Doe laws in WI), and create some huge budget hole?

  7. Richard Aubrey Says:

    “”Unless we are going to lock up every unstable person indefinitely,””

    Got some relations who lost family members due to the inability to get help. Why they couldn’t is complicated by circumstance, but the obstacle is that the guy didn’t want it. Involuntary detain is a tough proposition, but they are pushing for new laws which come closer. There will be no criminal justice law type of protection and the verdict will be in the hands of the descendants of the Rosenhan shrinks.
    Definition of needs-to-be-locked-up-and-his-head-messed-with?
    Dunno. Child Adductive Services will take your kid on the uncorroborated word of a nosy neighbor,

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey:

    No, that’s not the procedure for removing a child from a home. Here are some typical rules about that sort of thing; it’s not just “the uncorroborated word of a nosy neighbor.”

    Now, there are certainly cases where child protective services makes an error, either of too much protection or too little. Because children are involved, CPS agencies would rather err on the side of over-protection than under-protection. It’s a very difficult determination to make, by the way, with huge repercussions if CPS fails to protect and the child is seriously injured or killed.

    I also have written a post about the difficulties inherent in involuntary commitment for adults.

  9. Juli Says:

    Flew into TPA (Tampa) this evening. Saw police with big guns walking around baggage claim.

  10. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Neo. There have been some cases in Michigan which did not fit the mold. One kid got hold of reinforced lemonade at a ball game. CPS wouldn’t even let his aunt see him.
    Then there was the kid who, internal documents show, the CPS knew was suffering from a copper deficiency and so had brittle bones. They got her from her supposedly abusive father. After years, he got her back and the bastards wouldn’t even pay for counseling.
    Anyway, I’ve had long conversations with my relations and they think rights are too high an obstacle for the good that invol detain can do. They have no patience for a discussion of what, exactly, would be the definition.
    I recall seeing a case recently where a shrink was sued for letting a guy out of treatment after which the dude went off and killed somebody. Going to be a lot of “just in case” indefinite holds, or your malpractice and E&O will cancel you.
    And it’s not just holds. Like in jail. They’ll be messing with your head.

  11. Richard Aubrey Says:

    J.J. You’re asking the FBI to react to what, to them, are incredibly subtle signals
    Russian intel gave the fibbers the Tsarnaev clan on a platter. These guys are trouble.
    The fibbers’ view seemed to be “You’re not the boss of me,” They couldn’t find anything.
    So with a guy claiming US intel is forcing him to watch ISIS videos, who has guns, a domestic violence beef, and a Muslim pseudonym, this is all too vague and fuzzy.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey:

    Of course CPS has made errors, in both directions. That will always be the case. It is an incredibly difficult job, and a very difficult determinations to make, except ex post facto.

    Hindsight, 20/20.

    There is also a certain amount of incompetence. Always will be. Problem is, in CPS the consequences can be awful. It’s not a job I’d want, I can tell you that.

    As for involuntary commitment, it’s the same problem. Second-guessing is easy, but deciding what to do is hard. Balancing liberty with the need to protect is incredibly difficult.

    This particular perp was referred to counseling. I have no idea whether he was institutionalized or not, at least for a few days while undergoing evaluation. I haven’t yet read anything that addresses his exact treatment history.

    One thing I did read (I don’t know where) is that he claimed to have no violent impulses. And at the same time said ISIS was getting into his head. That’s not a good combination, but my guess is that when the mental health people did an evaluation (I read he was in therapy, so someone must have been evaluating him) for dangerousness they decided he was not dangerous.

    It’s like evaluating someone for suicide. Very hard.

    At the very least, it sounds like this guy should have been evaluated for possible schizophrenia (because of the thing about voices in his head). I have no idea whether he was or wasn’t, however, and if so whether he got treatment for it.

  13. Sergey Says:

    The assilant claims that somebody else (USA government in this case) controls his mind is a very serious symptom of psychotic condition (depersonalisation) and is usually associated with paranoid schizophrenia. His defence will certainly demand psychiatric evaluation, and has every chance to succede.

  14. Sergey Says:

    To confiscate firearms posessed by obviously psychotic person (he was twice hospitalized into mental institution) is absolutely necessary measure, and hardly gun rights advocats can dispute this.

  15. neo-neocon Says:


    It is absolutely possible to dispute it, and I’ll go right ahead and do it now.

    Gun rights are a pretty basic right in the US, and so one must be careful not to take it away without a good reason.

    If everyone who ever had a stay in a mental hospital lost his or her gun rights, that would be a bad thing. Lots and lots of people who spend some time in such hospitals are not dangerous. They have never threatened violence or done violence to anyone. Perhaps they are depressed, or substance abusers, or bipolar and need to get their meds under control. Maybe they were just in for observation, and they were released because they were okay.

    And how long would each person be banned from owning guns? Forever? Who would determine the length of time?

    Such rules would also tend to discourage the voluntary mental health institutionalization of people who own guns and would be afraid that one short hospitalization would take away their right to own guns (to defend themselves, to hunt, whatever). This would have a chilling effect on people getting the help they needed.

    Nor, of course, would it stop anyone from getting an illegal weapon, but that’s always a problem anyway.

    Certain people shouldn’t be able to own guns, but how to determine who they are? Some states say that a history of involuntary commitment should be the criterion, and should stop the purchase of a gun. But what about guns already owned?

    I think the criterion should be dangerousness. That’s not an easy one to apply at all.

    Here’s a case that illustrates some of this.

  16. Sergey Says:

    I still believe that every paranoid schizophrenic in acute psychotic state is a ticking bomb and should not be able to own and carry gun. History of mental illness should not be of itself led to denying gun rights, but acute psychosis certainly should. Here is the article on this topic: dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/2017/01/09/deadly-airport-shooting-urgent-questions-gun-rights-mentally

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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