Esteban Santiago Ruiz told the FBI that he carried out an attack on Fort Lauderdale on behalf of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), Michael Ferlazzo, an FBI special agent, reportedly testified at the attacker’s bond hearing Tuesday.
Santiago is the New Jersey-born Iraq war veteran of Puerto Rican descent who killed five people and wounded six others at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida earlier this month.
Citing public records opened last week, Sunshine State News adds that Santiago converted to Islam and created a “jihadist identity” for himself, assuming the Islamic name Aashiq Hammad, prior to joining the U.S. Army.
He reportedly downloaded Islamic terrorist propaganda and recorded Muslim religious music online.
However, the Miami Herald, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that despite rumors to the contrary, nothing in Santiago’s social media history suggests he was “an Islamic convert inspired by terrorist organizations.”
On Tuesday, the attacker was ordered held without bond.
CNN notes that FBI agency Ferlazzo “did not elaborate on whether Santiago was purporting to be linked to ISIS or simply inspired by the terrorist organization.”
ISIS has not claimed responsibility for the attack.
Nevertheless, Ferlazzo revealed that, during the six-hour interview conducted after the attack, Santiago claimed “to be fighting for ISIS and that he’d been in touch with like-minded people via jihadi chat rooms who were planning attacks as well,” reports CNN.
Moreover, the “FBI agent confirmed that the 9 mm gun used in the Jan. 6 shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the same weapon Anchorage, Alaska, police seized and later returned to 26-year-old Esteban Santiago last year,” reports CBS News. “The agent also testified that Santiago mentioned after the shooting that he was under government mind control.”
The terrorist has already been charged with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime; performing a violent act against a person at an airport serving international civil aviation that caused serious bodily injury; and killing a person with a firearm.
Of the charges, the latter two are punishable by death, while the first charge carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars.
Santiago revealed before the attack that he was hearing voices and that the CIA had been controlling his mind, federal authorities and the killer’s brother Bryan Santiago have revealed.
Nearly a month prior to the attack, Esteban Santiago specifically confessed to the FBI in Alaska where he was living at the time, that he was suffering from government mind control linked to ISIS videos.
The FBI reportedly contacted law enforcement in Anchorage and told them the veteran had been having “terroristic thoughts” and believed he was being influenced by ISIS.
Although authorities did take Santiago to a mental facility, he was ultimately released along with his weapon.
Santiago has confessed to the mass shooting.
“At Tuesday’s hearing, the defense did not argue the prosecution’s assertion that Santiago posed a flight risk, as well as a danger to the community, and said that the defendant was prepared to be detained throughout his trial,” reports CNN. “The judge ruled he be held without bond. His next court appearance is January 30.”