LIVE: Watch 4pm news on WHNT News 19

Man arrested in Fort Lauderdale shooting has lengthy military record

HUNTSVILLE, Ala – WHNT News 19 has obtained new information from a spokesperson for the Alaska National Guard about the military record of Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, the man arrested for the deadly shooting in the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead says Esteban Santiago-Ruiz was a Soldier in the 297th Cavalry in Fairbanks, Alaska, prior to his discharge.

Olmstead adds that he was formerly a member of the Alaska Army National Guard, leaving the organization in August 2016.

Other facts from Olmstead:

  • Joined the Puerto Rico National Guard Dec. 14, 2007
  • Deployed to Iraq with Puerto Rico National Guard April 23, 2010 to February 19, 2011
  • Was in the Army Reserves prior to joining the Alaska Army National Guard Nov. 21, 2014
  • Received a general discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard Aug. 16, 2016 for unsatisfactory performance
  • He was a combat engineer (MOS: 21B10)
  • When he was discharged, his military rank was E3 (Private First Class)

A full list of his assignments, as passed along from Cynthia Smith of Army Public Affairs,  include:

  •  April 2008 to November 2008: Puerto Rico National Guard
  • November 2008 to March 2009: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
  • March 2009 to March 2010: Puerto Rico National Guard
  • March 2010 to April 2011: Fort Dix, New Jersey
  • April 2011 to February 2014: Puerto Rico National Guard
  • February 2014 to November 2014: Inactive Ready Reserve
  • November 2014 to August 2016: Alaska National Guard
  • August 2016: transferred to Inactive Ready Reserve

Smith also notes a number of awards in his military history:

  • Army Commendation Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/ “M” Device Army Service
  • Ribbon Overseas Service Ribbon Combat Action Badge Driver and Mechanic Badge – Wheeled Vehicle

According to CNN, Santiago-Ruiz has not been charged at this time.  Here is what we know:

• Santiago-Ruiz flew into Florida on a flight from Alaska and had declared his firearm, law enforcement sources told CNN.

• Upon arriving at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, he picked up a bag at baggage claim, took out the gun and started firing, according to law enforcement sources.

• One source said Santiago-Ruiz went to the bathroom to get the gun out of his luggage and emerged shooting.

• The gunman likely acted alone, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

• Santiago-Ruiz had purchased two handguns — a 9 mm Glock and a Glock .40-caliber — in the past, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation. It is unknown whether either of these pistols were used in Friday’s attack.

• Santiago-Ruiz’s criminal record in Alaska includes three minor charges, such as having no proof of insurance in 2015 and a tail light violation in 2015.

• Santiago-Ruiz was not on the radar for possible terrorism ties, according to a law enforcement official and a Department of Homeland Security official.

• Santiago had no significant foreign travel that was ever flagged, another official said.

• He visited the FBI’s Anchorage, Alaska, office a few months ago and told them that an intelligence agency was telling him to watch ISIS videos, according to law enforcement officials.

• The officials said Santiago-Ruiz’s associates were concerned because he said he was hearing voices; they accompanied him to the FBI office in Anchorage.

• The FBI looked into Santiago-Ruiz’s background and saw his military history but found no other information to indicate radicalization, officials said. The FBI asked local police to take him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. Santiago-Ruiz voluntarily checked himself in.

• Santiago-Ruiz lived in Alaska was employed by an Anchorage security company, a law enforcement official said.

WHNT News 19 continues to aggressively push for information, and we will update this story as we learn more about the suspect, especially reporting out his military ties that will be more familiar to the people here in the Tennessee Valley.