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Fort Lauderdale Attack: A Manchurian Candidate?

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SUSPECT SAID GOVERNMENT WAS MIND-CONTROLLING HIM …

The suspected gunman in a terror attack in Fort Lauderdale, Florida told investigators two months ago that he was being mind-controlled by the government.

Esteban Santiago, 26, walked into a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office in Anchorage, Alaska last November and told investigators there that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was forcing him to watch videos in an effort to turn him into an agent of the Islamic State.

He also said he was “hearing voices” and repeatedly requested treatment for his psychological issues.

After the November interview agents notified the police, who conducted a psychological evaluation on the Iraq War veteran.  He was later released after officials apparently determined that he was not a danger to himself or others.

Santiago’s family says the government should have done more to follow-up on his condition.

“The FBI failed there,” his brother, Bryan Santiago, told the Associated Press.  “We’re not talking about someone who emerged from anonymity to do something like this.”

Last Thursday, Santiago flew on Delta Flight 1088 from Anchorage, Alaska to Minneapolis-St. Paul.  From there he took another flight to Florida on Friday morning – where he is alleged to have carried out a shooting rampage in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport shortly before 1:00 p.m. EST.

The nine millimeter semi-automatic handgun used in the attack was stored inside Santiago’s only piece of checked luggage.  It appears to have been legally-checked, with Santiago providing his military identification card to retrieve it.

Five people were killed in the attack – while another six were wounded (original reports incorrectly put the number of wounded at nine).  Santiago surrendered to police without incident after he ran out of ammunition – laying spread eagle on the ground to await his capture.

Witnesses claim he said nothing as he carried out the carnage.

(Click to view)

(Via Broward County, Florida)

So … what happened here?  Do we have a real-life “Manchurian Candidate” on our hands?

“The indications are he came here to carry out this horrific attack,” FBI agent George Piro told reporters in Florida, although the bureau has yet to issue any statement as to Santiago’s alleged motive in carrying out the attack.

“We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack,” Piro said.  “We’re pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack.”

Santiago was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico as a child.   Ten years ago he joined the Puerto Rico National Guard, and in April of 2010 he was deployed to Iraq where he was tasked with clearing roads of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Santiago spent a year in Iraq, winning numerous commendations, but a relative said he “lost his mind” upon returning in 2011.  In August of last year he was discharged from the Alaska Army National Guard for “unsatisfactory performance” – including going absent without leave on several occasions.

Santiago is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to be arraigned on murder charges.  Federal and local law enforcement agencies say the suspect has been “cooperative” during his interrogation.

As we continue to follow this story, our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of those whose lives have been lost or otherwise adversely impacted by this tragedy.

(Banner via iStock)

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