US airport shooter pleads not guilty

Miami, Jan 31 (IANS) The Iraqi war veteran charged with the shooting at Fort Lauderdale International Airport that left five people dead pleaded not guilty in a Florida court in the US, media reports said.

Esteban Santiago, 26, entered pleas of not guilty to 22 charges. If convicted, Santiago could face the death penalty or life in prison, Efe news reported.

No terrorism charges have been filed against Santiago because investigators have not found evidence that he had ties to the Islamic State (IS).

On January 6, the former soldier arrived in Fort Lauderdale on a flight from Minneapolis.

Santiago retrieved his suitcase in baggage claim, he went into a bathroom, removed the pistol and loaded it, then came out and with no warning started shooting people in the baggage claim area.

Santiago initially told authorities that he had been inspired to go on the shooting spree by the IS.

Several of Santiago’s relatives have said that he was a changed person when he returned from Iraq, where he was depolyed in 2010-2011, and things went downhill for him from there after his father died six months later.

Santiago’s brother said his emotional instability was such that he advised him to seek psychological help.