Florida Airport Shooter to Be Sentenced to Life Plus 120 Years

Blanche Robertson
August 19, 2018

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom read off the names of all 11 victims and described their lives before imposing five consecutive life sentences for those who were murdered along with an additional 120 years in prison for those wounded in the shooting massacre at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on January 6, 2017.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom had pushed back the sentencing hearing to allow families of victims to be present.

Under terms of the plea deal, Santiago agreed to the life sentences and prison term.

People stand on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a shooter opened fire inside the terminal, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Santiago was accused of flying on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to carry out the shootings of mostly elderly travelers.

Santiago was living in Anchorage, Alaska, when he flew to Fort Lauderdale with a handgun checked in his luggage. Authorities said he followed the Transportation Security Administration's protocols for checking the gun, as NPR reported at the time.

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After landing he retrieved the weapon, loaded it in a bathroom and came out firing randomly until he exhausted his ammunition.

Santiago, who grew up in Puerto Rico, served in the National Guard in Puerto Rico and Alaska. He was deployed to Iraq 2010 to 2011.

Prior to the shooting, Santiago was briefly treated at an Anchorage mental institution after showing up at the local Federal Bureau of Investigation office claiming to be hearing voices, then was released with no restrictions on owning a gun, authorities have said. Santiago's behavior was erratic, but he said he didn't wish to harm anyone, and he was referred to a medical facility for evaluation. It was returned to him in December, the month before the shooting.

Santiago, who is an Iraq war veteran, is diagnosed as schizophrenic but was found competent to understand legal proceedings. Doctors say he has improved with anti-psychotic medication. She said she was imposing the maximum sentence she could as defined by the plea agreement, multiple life terms for what she called "85 seconds of evil".

Several family members of victims - many of whom were on their way to cruise ship vacations - spoke in court Friday, describing their deep sense of loss for those who died and some discussing the health struggles of shooting survivors.

After the shooting, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says Santiago told agents he acted under government mind control, then claimed inspiration by Islamic State extremists.

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