The man arrested for allegedly shooting and killing five people at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida was charged by prosecutors late on Saturday (7 January) for performing an act of violence. If convicted, Esteban Santiago – the accused – could face death penalty.
The 26-year-old Iraq war veteran allegedly opened fire at a baggage claim area in the airport on 6 January, in which five people were killed and six others injured.
Santiago has been slapped with two other lesser counts, including violations related to firearms, in Broward County, Florida.
According to court documents, the attacker told the FBI that he had planned the attack. However, authorities are yet to determine whether the incident involved a terrorism motive. Agents are also questioning the accused to know why he chose the Florida airport as his target.
Court papers also suggested that Santiago had bought a one-way ticket to Fort Lauderdale from Alaska. He had checked in an unloaded semi-automatic 9mm handgun and two ammunition magazines at Alaska, which he used up on his arrival at Florida.
"Today's charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors," BBC quoted Attorney Wifredo Ferrer as saying.
FBI's Special Agent in Charge, George Piro, said that investigators are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive.
Santiago is said to have had a history of mental health issues and received treatment for the same in the past in Anchorage, Alaska. Authorities are assessing whether this condition played a role in the attack. He was reportedly "not OK" after he got back home from a 10-month deployment in Iraq, his relatives said.