In the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting in Fort Lauderdale, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel today called for tighter measures to ensure people with mental health issues don’t have access to guns.
“People who are suffering from mental illness should not be allowed to purchase or have firearms at any time,” Israel said on WPLG Local 10’s current affairs show, “This Week in South Florida.”
Israel appeared on the program to discuss the Broward Sheriff’s Office response to the shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Five people were killed and six injured in the attack; dozens more were injured in the aftermath, as thousands of travelers were evacuated.
Investigators have said 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, charged in the attack, had gone to an Alaska FBI office in November to seek help, saying he was hearing voices from the CIA that were telling him to watch Islamic State videos online.
Israel said Santiago repeated these claims when Broward sheriff’s deputies took Santiago into custody following the shooting.
“At this point, we really don’t know what’s in his head,” Israel told WPLG’s Glenna Milberg and Michael Putney.
After Santiago went to the FBI in Alaska, he was taken for mental health treatment and then released, Israel said, comparing his experience to that of Florida’s Baker Act, which essentially is an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility when it’s suspected a person may pose a danger to themselves or others.
What’s not known, Israel said, is why Santiago was given his firearm back after being committed.
“This isn’t about Amendment 2,” Israel said. “We need to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ We have a society to protect.”
When asked if the federal government should change rules that allow passengers to bring firearms and ammunition onto airplanes as checked baggage, Israel said no — Santiago would have carried out an attack, even if he could not get on a plane.
“It’s not where did he take the gun, it’s people like this shouldn’t have firearms, period,” Israel said.
Lone-wolf attacks such as the one apparently carried out by Santiago are difficult to stop, he added. But they sometimes can be prevented.
“It’s what can you do before these things happen,” he said. “See something, say something.”
Santiago remains on a suicide watch at the Broward jail, where he is being held until his first appearance tomorrow at 11 a.m. in federal court. He then will be moved to a federal detention facility in Miami-Dade County, Israel said.
“He will be eyes-on by a Broward sheriff’s deputy until the FBI picks him up,” he added.
Investigators still are working to determine why Santiago chose Fort Lauderdale as his destination when he bought his one-way ticket from Anchorage, Alaska, Israel said.