(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — It was an attack without warning, made possible by a $278 one way ticket from Anchorage, Alaska to Fort Lauderdale.
Buying the Delta airlines ticket just last Tuesday, Esteban Santiago told his family that he was going to Florida to see a step-brother.
On Friday, 43 minutes after landing, gunfire erupted, leaving five dead and six more injured.
Hours before his first court appearance, Esteban Santiago has told his interrogators that he had been in contact with the ISIS terror group online.
In November, Santiago showed up at the FBI's Anchorage office claiming that "his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency," according to Marlin Ritzman, special agent in charge of that office, who was speaking at a press conference on Saturday.
During that incident, Santiago "appeared agitaged, incoherent and made disjointed statements," but "stated he did not wish to harm anyone," Ritzman said.
Overnight a former girlfriend Michelle Quinones told ABC News that Santiago returned from a deployment in Iraq deeply troubled after saying he saw two of his national guard buddies killed in action, but could not get help from the Veterans Administration. His father's death a few months later was "completely hard" for him as well, she said. "He wasn't the same after he came from Iraq and after his father...it just really finished him off," she said.
"We had let veterans know that he was having some mental problems, that he wasn't feeling alright and they did nothing," Quinones said. "They didn't do anything."
Dept. of Veterans Affairs Spokesperson Randal Noller in Washington confirmed that "Santiago is a Veteran who served in the Army National Guard," but said he, "is not currently receiving monetary compensation," and that, "information is unavailable without the consent of the Veteran, in compliance with privacy laws."
Repeated calls by ABC News during working hours on Monday to the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan went unanswered.
ABC News has learned that investigators have recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop, and the FBI is now scouring it to determine whether the alleged shooter created a jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad.
In his native Puerto Rico, Santiago’s brother, Bryan Santiago, told ABC News on Saturday that the FBI should have done more sooner.
"How is it possible that the federal government let him keep his gun?" the brother said. "All this could have been avoided."
His brother's questions came as a surveillance video obtained by TMZ shows the 26-year-old pulling out his pistol and opening fire on unsuspecting travelers inside the Fort Lauderdale airport.
In the video, passengers are seen running for cover as Santiago casually moves through the baggage claim area emptying his nine millimeter handgun and reloading once.
Ritzman acknowledged concerns over why Santiago was not barred from flight, telling reporters on Saturday, “I want to be clear, during our initial investigation, we found no ties to terrorism.”
As authorities work to piece together Santiago’s motive, there will also be introspection as agents ask themselves what, if anything, they could have done to prevent this tragedy.
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