Accused FLL shooter declared mentally competent, expected to plead guilty

FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - Esteban Santiago, the man accused in the January 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, is mentally competent and will thus stand trial later this month, according to court documents.

The documents also state Santiago, 28, has agreed to enter a guilty plea on unspecified charges in exchange for spending the rest of his life in federal prison. Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

Santiago had previously pleaded not guilty to 22 federal charges in connection to the Jan. 6, 2017 massacre at FLL that claimed the lives of five people and left six others injured.

Surveillance video captured the accused shooter pulling a gun from his waistband and firing a fuselage of bullets through the baggage claim area at Terminal 2.

Earlier in May, prosecutors and defense attorneys announced they had reached an agreement that would prevent Santiago from facing the death penalty.

For shooting survivor Annika Dean, Monday’s news means she’s one step closer to having the legal part of this ordeal resolved.

“I’m glad that there’s not going to be a big, lengthy trial, it sounds like, and he’s not going to be out harming people,” she said.

Broward Circuit Court Judge Beth Bloom had asked for a mental evaluation to make sure Santiago understands his decision. A psychologist has determined he is competent to proceed with his case.

Ryan Kim, the daughter of one of the victims, said she often reflects on the events of that that day.

“I think about what he did,” she said.

When asked whether this turn of events are justice, Kim replied, “I do.”

Details of the plea agreement are not expected to be made public until after he pleads guilty in federal court in Miami, May 23.

Santiago, an Iraq War veteran, has remained behind bars since he surrendered at FLL moments after the mass shooting. He is jailed at the Federal Detention Center in Downtown Miami.

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