According to sources, Santiago seemed agitated and incoherent during that interview, and it seemed obvious that he was suffering from a mental disorder. But not severe enough, evidently, to prohibit him from taking a gun along with him for the flight from Alaska to Florida.
After the November contact, the FBI called local authorities who took custody of him and brought him to a local hospital "for a welfare check."
According to his brother, he had been receiving psychological treatment, but it isn't clear if he was receiving anti-psychotic medication(s) for his schizophrenia, are just a good talking to.
The sources said that the November incident prompted the FBI to open an investigation on him that led to family interviews, database checks and an interagency interview. It was believed (by James Comey) that there wasn't enough credible information to commit Santiago or indict him for anything because no prosecutor would go forward with the case.
Yet, in recent years, Santiago had a series of incidents with the law.
Not quite one year ago, he was charged with fourth degree assault and damage of property in Anchorage where he lived from 2014 to 2016. (The fact that he never wore a winter coat should have alerted authorities, but that's another story.) One of the charges was dismissed by the local prosecutor two months later.
One of the charges may have been related to domestic violence but the case was resolved after Santiago agreed to enter an agreement of deferred prosecution. The charges were dismissed by the state prosecutor in exchange for completion of requirements.
Santiago served in the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Army Reserves prior to serving in the Alaska Army National Guard and was honorably discharged four months ago from his last post at Fort Greely, Arkansas as a Private First Class. He served 2 years in Iraq after which he started acting strangely, according to an aunt in Hudson County, NJ.
Santiago has a concealed carry permit and properly checked in his weapon prior to boarding--he evidently didn't want to get into any trouble. Maybe his becoming a dad this year cooled his jets until he landed in one in Florida today.
So did Esteban Santiago think he was somehow fighting for ISIS?
Santiago is behind bars and faces federal charges, the FBI announced Saturday. The official charges will be announced later in the day. The Special Agent in the case is George Piro who said that the suspect was questioned for hours and they have looked into his social media footprint and where he has traveled in the past.
Terrorism may have been a "potential motivation" for the attack, Piro said, and the FBI hasn't ruled anything out. "The indications are he came here to carry out this horrific attack," Piro said.
Santiago was not on any no-fly list, according to the FBI. Just because he approached them in Anchorage and told them an intelligence agency made him watch ISIS videos is no reason to put him on any no-fly list.
The suspect used a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in the attack, Piro said. (I'm guessing Glock.)
One update has been made thus far: Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that 6 people, not 8, were wounded as originally reported. Three were in ICU and three were in good condition.
Santiago has a history of mental health problems, some of which came after he served in Iraq. He was receiving psychological treatment in Alaska, but nothing, it seems, was enough to put him on a no-fly list, and nobody worried that he took along a gun in his suitcase.
But I bet they checked his shampoo bottle and shoes.