Mental Health Of FLL Airport Gunman Under Microscope

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Since Friday’s mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), many have wondered how accused gunman Esteban Santiago could have been armed with his recent history of mental health issues.

On Saturday, authorities in Anchorage, Alaska confirmed that in November Santiago went to the FBI with his gun and infant son in the car and made troubling statements.

“Mr. Santiago believed he was being influenced by ISIS,” said Police Chief Christopher Tolley.

Santiago was hospitalized for four days, but the gun was returned to him on December 8th.

There was no law in Alaska that prevented authorities from giving him back the gun – the gun they say he took a month later to FLL and went on a shooting rampage.

Laws regarding guns and mental health treatment vary from state to state.

In Florida, a record of mental health treatment can prevent someone from buying a gun, although there is no guarantee they cannot obtain a firearm.

“Just because an event happens, doesn’t mean it was foreseeable,” says South Florida psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Bober.

But Dr. Bober says even if law enforcement had kept Santiago’s gun, it may not have prevented Friday’s tragedy.

“The thing is no one wants to admit we cannot prevent this from happening. If someone wants to get his hands on a gun, he will do it,” he said.

Dr. Bober says he is in favor of any measures that prevent firearms from getting into the hands of someone who is mentally ill.

According to Santiago’s family, he came back a changed man after serving in Iraq in 2011. They say he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“One in five veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health issues” said Dr. Bober. “Mental health treatment in the veterans administration is sorely lacking and needs more attention than what we’re giving it.”

More from Joan Murray
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