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The man police say opened fire with a gun from his checked baggage at a Florida airport had a history of mental health problems – some of which followed his military service in Iraq – and was receiving psychological treatment at his home in Alaska, his relatives said Friday after the deadly shooting.
“Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good,” his uncle, Hernan Rivera, told The Record newspaper (http://bit.ly/2j04ghF).
Esteban Santiago, 26, was deployed in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard, spending a year with an engineering battalion, according to Guard spokesman Major Paul Dahlen.
In recent years, Santiago had been living in Anchorage, Alaska, his brother, Bryan Santiago, told The Associated Press from Puerto Rico. Bryan Santiago said his brother’s girlfriend had recently called the family to alert them to his treatment.
In November, Esteban told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Alaska that the government was controlling his mind and was forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, a law enforcement official said. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.
The FBI agents notified the police after the interview with Esteban Santiago, who took him in for a mental health evaluation.
Bryan Santiago said his brother never spoke to him directly about his medical issues.
“We have not talked for the past three weeks,” Bryan Santiago said. “That’s a bit unusual … I’m in shock. He was a serious person … He was a normal person.”
Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico when he was two, his brother said. He grew up in the southern coastal town of Penuelas before joining the Guard in 2007.
Since returning from Iraq, Santiago served in the Army Reserves and the Alaska National Guard in Anchorage.
“He was serving as a combat engineer in the Guard before his discharge for unsatisfactory performance,” said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, a spokeswoman.
His military rank upon discharge was E3, private 1st class, and he worked one weekend a month with an additional 15 days of training yearly, Olmstead said. (AP)