Florida airport shooting suspect could face death penalty

Florida airport shooting suspect could face death penalty
The suspect in an attack on travelers at a Florida airport could be subject to the death penalty as police continue to examine a possible 'terrorist angle' to the shooting.
2 min read
08 January, 2017
The accused shooter had shown signs of erratic behaviour [Getty]
US authorities have charged an Iraq war veteran accused of shooting five people dead and wounding six at a Florida airport with federal crimes that could carry the death penalty.

The justice department on Saturday charged Esteban Santiago, 26, with firearms offences and carrying out an act of violence when he opened fire at the busy Fort Lauderdale airport.

Santiago, who had earlier shown signs of "erratic behavior", arrived Friday on a flight from Alaska.

At baggage claim he retrieved a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and ammunition that he had declared and stowed inside his checked luggage, then allegedly loaded the weapon in a bathroom and opened fire in the crowded baggage claim area of Terminal 2.

Once his ammunition was exhausted Santiago lay on the floor with his arms and legs spread out and peacefully surrendered when a sheriff deputy approached him, witnesses quoted in US media said.

The hail of bullets sent thousands scrambling for safety and shut down the airport, a major gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America, for about 16 hours.

If convicted of the charges Santiago could face the death penalty or life in prison, US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a statement.

"Santiago started shooting, aiming at his victims' heads until he was out of ammunition," Ferrer said.

FBI special agent George Piro said agents were looking into the motives for the attack, including "continuing to look at the terrorism angle".

Piro said Santiago appeared to be acting alone and that "every indication" is that he followed rules in flying with the weapon.

Santiago is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Monday.