Iraq war vet gets life over 2017 USA airport rampage

Courtesy Broward County Sheriff's Office  Handout via REUTERS

A US veteran of the war in Iraq who killed five people during a shooting spree in the arrivals area of a Florida airport previous year was sentenced on Friday to life in federal prison for what the judge called "85 seconds of evil".

The 28-year-old pleaded guilty to five counts of committing violence causing death at an worldwide airport and six counts of committing violence causing serious bodily injury at an global airport.

According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Santiago was asked by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom at his May hearing why he had gone on a shooting spree.

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia but was deemed able to stand trial.

Several family members of victims - many of whom were on their way to cruise ship vacations - spoke in court Friday, describing their deep sense of loss for those who died and some discussing the health struggles of shooting survivors.

"We did not get a chance to say goodbye", said Julie Beauchamp, the daugther of Mary Louise Amzibel, 69, of DE, who was killed in the shooting. "We did not get a chance to say we love you".

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Santiago carried out the rampage after flying to Florida from his home in Anchorage, Alaska, then recovering a 9mm pistol and two ammunition clips from his checked baggage. Santiago, 28, a USA citizen who was born in New Jersey and raised in Puerto Rico, was convicted of 11 charges in the 22-count indictment, with the remainder of the offenses being dismissed.

Santiago, a former Army reservist, underwent a psychiatric competency evaluation ordered by Bloom because she said she wanted to be certain Santiago had the "capacity" to understand the charges and consequences of pleading guilty.

Technically, Santiago was sentenced to five consecutive life prison sentences for the five deaths and an additional 120 years for the six people he wounded.

FILE PHOTO: File Photo: Esteban Santiago, is shown in this booking photo provided by the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, January 7, 2017.

Santiago initially told the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the shooting he was under government mind control, then switched to unfounded claims he acted in support of Daesh.

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