The heartbroken mother of the Fort Lauderdale airport gunman has begged authorities not to hand her son the death penalty. Fifty six year old Elizabeth Santiago said she barely recognised the man who opened fire in Florida, killing five people and wounding eight more, as her son.
Mrs Santiago said her son was suffering from mental illness rather than being evil, and did not deserve to be executed. The devastated mother, who lives in Penueles, Puerto Rico, said that her son used to protect the US as a former soldier, but that he had mental health issues which required treatment.
He urged authorities to make sure that he receives a fair trial. Santiago is currently being held in custody. He has had a first court appearance, to discuss his finances and whether he qualifies for legal aid. The gunman is now back in court to be formally charged with committing an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death.
Terrorism has not been ruled out
His frantic mother says that she has not been able to get in touch with her son since his arrest following the shooting in a baggage hall on Friday. Investigations are still continuing into the incident, with detectives trying to establish whether the Iraq war veteran is mentally ill or whether he has any terrorist connections.
He was already known to authorities, having gone into an FBI office where he lived in Alaska at the end of last year, saying that voices in his head were telling him he must watch ISIS videos. After that incident, his gun was taken away from him. However, upon his release from a mental health centre, his weapon was returned to him.
It is understood that the same weapon was used when Santiago flew into Fort Lauderdale specifically to carry out his seemingly random attack.