US files plea deal in deadly Florida airport shooting
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Federal prosecutors filed court documents today in which an Alaska man agreed to plead guilty to a Florida airport shooting rampage that killed five people in exchange for a life prison sentence.
The agreement says that Esteban Santiago, 28, will plead guilty to 11 of the 22 counts against him in the attack that also left six wounded. Prosecutors reached a deal with Santiago's defense lawyers not to seek the death penalty in exchange for the guilty plea.
Instead, Santiago would serve a life prison sentence plus 120 years, according to the documents, and will waive his right to appeal the sentence.
The deal is expected to be finalized Wednesday in Miami federal court before U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom.
The mentally troubled Santiago, of Anchorage, Alaska, acknowledged in the document he flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with a 9mm handgun in a checked weapons box on Jan. 6, 2017. Santiago loaded the gun in a bathroom and came out firing, emptying two ammunition clips before lying on the floor and surrendering to police. Fifteen bullet casings were recovered.
"He recounted how he entered a stall, removed the gun from the box, loaded it, and put it in his waistband," prosecutors wrote of Santiago's confession to investigators. "He confessed that, after he left the men's restroom, he shot the first people he encountered."
Santiago, an Iraq war veteran who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, initially told the FBI he was acting under some form of government mind control. Then, he changed his story to claim he shot his victims in support of the Islamic State extremist group, but no ties to terrorist groups have been found.