In the year before the rampage at the Fort Lauderdale airport, accused killer Esteban Santiago was arrested on domestic violence charges and became estranged from the mother of his newborn son, lost his military rank, and then his job with the Alaska National Guard. To many who crossed paths with the 26-year-old Puerto Rico transplant and decorated Iraq War combat veteran, the man once known as soft-spoken, even withdrawn, seemed to be losing his grip on reality, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Suddenly, someone who neighbor Rick Ford said “was never a look you in the eye and say ‘hello’ kinda guy” was prone to verbal outbursts and walked the streets of Anchorage hearing voices in his head. Santiago had been struggling to keep himself in check for several years before he strode through the baggage claim area randomly shooting people with a 9 mm handgun, killing five and wounding six.
His family says he tried to get psychiatric help in both Puerto Rico and Alaska. He had several run-ins with police. At least twice he had his guns confiscated by police and then returned. Despite all the warning signs, public safety nets designed to head off the very kind of attack he carried out failed to stop him. Justina Kunayak Jr., a store manager in Anchorage, said Santiago was always polite while inside the store. Several weeks ago, she watched as Santiago stood in the street shouting in a rage at a man and woman trying to drive away from a nearby Domino’s Pizza. “He seemed to be screaming — who knows what — at the driver, screaming and looking inside the car,” she said. “The husband looked like he wanted to get out and confront him, but the woman said ‘Let him be’ and they drove” away.