The Iraq War veteran accused of killing five people at a Florida airport pleaded not guilty Monday to 22 charges — ten of which could send him to Death Row.
Esteban Santiago entered his pleas at Fort Lauderdale federal court while dozens of heavily-armed officers kept watch outside the courthouse.
While Santiago and his lawyers waived the reading of the charges, U.S. District Court Magistrate Barry Seltzer insisted on reading all 22 of them out and asking the shackled prisoner if he understood.
“Yes,” Santiago replied 22 times, his voice a low monotone.
Then Santiago, clad in a red prison jumpsuit, was led back to the lockup. No future court date was set at the hearing. And there was no discussion of the 26-year-old vet’s competency to stand trial during the 40 minute appearance.
Santiago is charged with five counts of causing death at an international airport, six counts of causing serious bodily injury at an international airport, five counts of causing death during a crime of violence and six counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence.
The vet's mental health is likely to be an issue when he goes on trial.
Two months before the shooting spree, Santiago walked into an Alaska FBI office with his infant “to report that his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency,” the feds said earlier.
Santiago suspected reported he was having terroristic thoughts and believed he was being influenced by ISIS, police added.
Also, Santiago’s kin in Puerto Rico said they feared the 10 months he served in Iraq had impaired his mental health.
But after a Santiago was evaluated and pronounced stable, the Anchorage police returned his Walther 9 mm pistol. And on Jan. 6, police said, he opened fire with that same gun at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The eruption of mayhem was captured on a surveillance video.
When it was over, five people were dead, six more were wounded, and thousands of travelers were terrorized.
In an earlier court appearance, it was revealed that Santiago had been working as a security guard in Anchorage, Alaska and had only about $10 in the bank.