Esteban Santiago, who is accused of killing five passengers at Florida airport, was formally charged on 22 criminal counts by a federal grand jury on Thursday (26 January). On 6 January, Santiago had allegedly pulled out a gun from his checked-in luggage at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and fired at those waiting in the baggage area, in which six others were also injured.

According to court documents, the federal grand jury sitting in Broward County returned a 22-count indictment against Santiago. His arraignment on the charges has been scheduled for 30 January before Magistrate Judge Barry L. Seltzer in Fort Lauderdale.

The 26-year-old has been charged with 11 counts of causing death or bodily harm, five counts of causing death during a crime of violence and six counts of using a firearm.

If convicted, he could be handed life imprisonment or even death penalty.

The indictment accused Santiago of "substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person".

Prosecutors in the US Southern District of Florida said that the suspect had targeted his victims' heads and bodies until he ran out of ammunition. When security officers arrived at the scene, he dropped his and surrendered.

Santiago has a history of mental health issues and received treatment for the same at Anchorage, Alaska. Authorities are assessing whether his condition played a role in the shooting.

According to reports, Santiago had purchased 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 on the victims after arriving in Florida.

He had earlier told investigators that he was inspired by Islamic State (Isis) and had previously chatted online with extremists.

Esteban Santiago
Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County jail as he is transported to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via REUTERS