2 months before airport shootings, Esteban Santiago lost security job due to 'documented mental illness'

An 'employee separation form' provided to the state of Alaska following the Jan. 6 shootings...
An 'employee separation form' provided to the state of Alaska following the Jan. 6 shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport. (KTUU)
Published: Feb. 14, 2017 at 4:12 PM AKST
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The Alaska man accused of fatally shooting five people at a Fort Lauderdale airport was fired from his job as a security guard in November due to “documented mental illness,” according to paperwork obtained by KTUU.

Authorities say Esteban Santiago, 26, flew from Anchorage to Florida where he opened fire the morning of Jan. 6. He faces a potential death penalty.

At the time of the shooting, Santiago held an active security guard license in Alaska despite his firing two months prior and

that prohibits anyone “suffering from any psychopathic condition or mental illness that impairs the powers of memory, reason, judgment or perception” from obtaining a license.

Santiago lived in Anchorage for at least two years prior to the Florida shooting. Court records, police statements and public documents show that he applied for and obtained a security guard license while battling domestic violence charges and prompting repeated visits to his home by police.

In January 2016, Anchorage city prosecutors charged Santiago with domestic violence assault and property damage in a case that remains open. A month later, he was accused of violating conditions of his release.

Police visited Santiago’s home again in March for a “physical disturbance” involving Santiago but were not able to establish probable cause for an arrest, Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley has said.

Signal 88 hired Santiago a few months later, in June, Santiago wrote on court paperwork.

The firm applied to the Department of Safety for his security guard license July 14, 2016, with the license granted in September, state records show. Santiago cited the domestic violence charge on his application but also wrote "no charge," despite the continued prosecution.

Questions of Santiago’s mental health drew the attention of the FBI on Nov. 7, when Santiago appeared at a downtown FBI building talking about mind control and ISIS. Authorities seized his handgun and Tolley has said Anchorage police transported Santiago to a mental health facility.

On Nov. 15, the owner of Signal 88 of Anchorage, William Serra, signed a form indicating Santiago had involuntarily lost his job.

After initially denying a request for Santiago’s security guard license records, the Department of Public Safety provided a copy of the paperwork on Tuesday.

The document, called an “Employee Separation Form,” lists the reason for Santiago’s dismissal as “other.”

“Due to Esteban Santiago’s current documented mental illness, affecting his judgement and reason, he is disqualified to be licensed as (an) unarmed security officer in the state of Alaska,” Signal 88 wrote.

Signal 88 officials wrote that Santiago would “only eligible for rehire if a clean bill of mental fitness was provided by a licensed medical practitioner.”

The Department of Public Safety requires security firms to provide a list of active security guards twice a year. Security officers are required to notify the state within five days of any change in their employment status, but there is no indication Santiago did so.

A Signal 88 official provided the state with a copy of Santiago’s “separation form” – describing him as disqualified to be a security officer in Alaska – days after the Fort Lauderdale shooting.

Only then did the state inactivate his license.

A Public Safety spokesman said the department learned of the change in Santiago's employment the day of the shooting, after making inquiries and received the separation paperwork two days later.

Signal 88 owners and representatives have not responded to repeated requests for interviews and information, in one case citing advice from federal authorities.

A Department of Public Safety spokesman said Commissioner Walt Monegan was not available to answer questions about Santiago and security guard oversight.