Review Category : National News

Santiago’s One Way Terror Ticket to Fort Lauderdale

Broward County Sheriff’s Office(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — It was an attack without warning, made possible by a $278 one way ticket from Anchorage, Alaska to Fort Lauderdale.

Buying the Delta airlines ticket just last Tuesday, Esteban Santiago told his family that he was going to Florida to see a step-brother.

On Friday, 43 minutes after landing, gunfire erupted, leaving five dead and six more injured.

Hours before his first court appearance, Esteban Santiago has told his interrogators that he had been in contact with the ISIS terror group online.

In November, Santiago showed up at the FBI’s Anchorage office claiming that “his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency,” according to Marlin Ritzman, special agent in charge of that office, who was speaking at a press conference on Saturday.

During that incident, Santiago “appeared agitaged, incoherent and made disjointed statements,” but “stated he did not wish to harm anyone,” Ritzman said.

ABC News has learned that investigators have recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop, and the FBI is now scouring it to determine whether the alleged shooter created a jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad.

In his native Puerto Rico, Santiago’s brother, Bryan Santiago, told ABC News on Saturday that the FBI should have done more sooner.

“How is it possible that the federal government let him keep his gun?” the brother said. “All this could have been avoided.”

His brother’s questions came as a surveillance video obtained by TMZ shows the 26-year-old pulling out his pistol and opening fire on unsuspecting travelers inside the Fort Lauderdale airport.

In the video, passengers are seen running for cover as Santiago casually moves through the baggage claim area emptying his nine millimeter handgun and reloading once.

Ritzman acknowledged concerns over why Santiago was not barred from flight, telling reporters on Saturday, “I want to be clear, during our initial investigation, we found no ties to terrorism.”

As authorities work to piece together Santiago’s motive, there will also be introspection as agents ask themselves what, if anything, they could have done to prevent this tragedy.

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Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting Suspect Esteban Santiago Due in Court

iStock/Thinkstock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — Esteban Santiago, the Iraq war veteran accused of killing five people and wounding six others during a shooting rampage at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim last week, is due to make his first court appearance Monday morning.

He faces federal airport violence and firearms charges that could lead to the death penalty, if he is convicted. Monday’s hearing will likely focus on setting future dates for the trial and ensuring that the accused has a lawyer.

Santiago, 26, allegedly told the FBI he had planned the attack and bought a one-way ticket to Fort Lauderdale to carry it out, according to an FBI affidavit.

Investigators found “no specific reason” why Santiago allegedly chose the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as his target. They also haven’t determined a motive for the shooting, which took place Friday afternoon just before 1 p.m. ET in the baggage claim at Terminal 2, according to George Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office.

“We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack,” Pirro said at a news conference Saturday morning. “We’re pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack.”

Santiago has been held without bail since his arrest Friday.

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Airports Boost Security After Fort Lauderdale Shooting

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There was an increased security presence at airports across the country over the weekend after a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport left five people dead and another six people injured.

The suspected gunman, Esteban Santiago, a 26-year-old former National Guard soldier, flew from Anchorage, Alaska, connecting through Minneapolis and on to Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning with a gun legally checked in his luggage. He allegedly told the FBI that he took that gun and loaded it in a bathroom of Terminal 2 at the Fort Lauderdale airport and then opened fire in the baggage claim area.

At New York City airports, Port Authority Police deployed officers with heavy tactical weapons, positioned armored vehicles outside terminals, stepped up K-9 patrols and increased random bag checks.

In Los Angeles, police went into “high visibility mode” with officers patrolling terminals with long guns.

Boston Logan maintained a rigorous security plan, including tactical units, commercial vehicle inspections and roadway blockades.

Airports as varied in size as Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Tampa and San Diego have increased visible security on what’s called the “soft side” of the airport — those public areas before Transportation Security Administration checkpoints like check-in counters and baggage claim areas.

In the wake of terror attacks last year in those public parts of airports in Brussels and Istanbul and a shooting at a TSA checkpoint at LAX in 2013, some security experts have suggested that a consistent presence of specially trained, armed officers stationed in those areas could help.

“It could serve not only as a deterrent but also speed up response times should a situation arise such as the one that occurred in Fort Lauderdale,” John Cohen, a former counterterrorism coordinator at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ABC News contributor said.

The TSA’s responsibility for airport security begins and ends at the TSA checkpoint. Areas before the checkpoint are left to local authorities to patrol and secure.

“Local airport authorities should make it a priority to have uniformed law enforcement officers patrolling these nonsecured areas,” Cohen said. “These officers should be trained to recognize the behaviors of an individual who may be planning or preparing to carry out an attack and should also be trained to respond to a mass casualty attacker or active shooter.”

Airports nationwide declined to say how long passengers could expect to see these enhanced security measures remain in place, citing security concerns.

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Man Arrested After Breaching Security, Allegedly Striking TSA Agents at Chicago O’Hare

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — An Illinois man was arrested after breaching security at Chicago O’Hare airport and allegedly striking law enforcement officers who attempted to arrest him, police said.

The man, identified as 21-year-old Malik Steffon Neal, was arrested just before 5 a.m., police said.

“Neal entered a restricted area without a valid ticket and ignored agents along with Chicago Police officers commands to stop,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. “Neal then struck several officers as they attempted to place him into custody.”

The officers suffered non-life threatening injuries and were transported to an area hospital, according to the statement.

Neal was taken into custody and charged accordingly, police said, without specifying what charges he currently faces.

Video posted to social media shows Neal being removed from the airport by several law enforcement officers.

@ABC7Chicago man removed from ohare spirit flight after reportedly trying to rush the flight w/o a boarding pass

— Connor (@Connorr_15) January 8, 2017

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Beloved California Giant Sequoia Tree Felled by Storm

iStock/Thinkstock(ARNOLD, Calif.) — A beloved centuries-old Giant Sequoia tree that wowed thousands of visitors who passed through a tunnel in its massive trunk was felled after a weekend storm brought flooding to California this weekend.

The tree, nicknamed the “pioneer cabin” after its enormous size, is located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Giant Sequoias are commonly known as redwood trees.

Its trunk was hollowed out in the 1800s as a tourist attraction but the tree managed to survive until this weekend.

Social media users reacted with shock and disappointment upon hearing of the tree’s demise.

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Snow Blasts Parts of East Coast as California Braces for More Severe Weather

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A deadly winter storm dumped snow and ice from the Carolinas to Maine this weekend, creating treacherous conditions for drivers and claiming at least four lives.

Some drivers were stranded because of the snow, and in Connecticut over 20 vehicles were involved in a massive pile-up.

Air traffic was affected by the severe weather as well with more than 4,000 flights cancelled and 8,000 delayed.

And in the west, evacuations are underway in California as millions are bracing for possible landslides and what could be the worst flooding in years.

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Pennsylvania Couple Charged in Murder of Adopted Teen Daughter

WPVI-TV(DOYLESTOWN, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania woman and her boyfriend have been charged with killing her 14-year-old adoptive daughter in what the district attorney called a “rape-murder fantasy.”

Grace Packer was reported missing from Abington, Pennsylvania, by her adoptive mother, Sara Packer, in July after she said Grace ran away after an argument, ABC affiliate WPVI-TV reports. But the teenager was allegedly raped by Packer’s boyfriend, 44-year-old Jacob Sullivan, on July 8 at a new home in Quakertown while Packer watched, court documents said according to WPVI-TV.

Sullivan told investigators he later strangled Grace, and when he and Packer became afraid of being caught by authorities, they dismembered and dumped the body.

Hunters in Bear Creek Township found the remains on Oct. 31, WPVI-TV reports.

“We believe the evidence will prove that this was a rape-murder fantasy that was shared by Jacob Sullivan and Sara Packer,” Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub told ABC affiliate WPVI-TV, “and they made this fantasy into a horrible, heinous, gruesome reality.”

Court documents said according to WPVI-TV that Packer and Sullivan attempted to commit suicide together on Dec. 30, but they were found at home in Quakertown by family members before they died. Police said Sullivan allegedly confessed to the crime once he was in the hospital, WPVI-TV reports.

“Their motive to perpetuate the lie that she was still alive was profit, greed,” Weintraub said to WPVI-TV. “It was for the money that they could collect because of her life and very existence.”

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Victims of Fort Lauderdale Attack Include ‘Joyful’ Great-Grandmother and Globe-Trotting Husband

iStock/Thinkstock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — One of the victims from Friday’s shooting attack at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was a doting great-grandmother active in her church, while another victim was a world traveler with a love for cruising.

As law enforcement officials continue to investigate alleged gunman Esteban Santiago, 26 — the army veteran who opened fire in a baggage claim area, killing five and wounding six — the families of the deceased are coping with their devastating loss.

ABC News has confirmed the identities of the two of the five victims: Olga Woltering, 84, a great-grandmother from Marietta, Georgia, and Michael Oehme, 57, a land surveyor from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who owned his own business, Boundaryline Surveys.

The church Woltering attended, Transfiguration Catholic Church in Marietta, posted a statement on its Facebook announcing her death, remembering her as a devout member of its congregation.

Vigil held to honor Marietta woman killed in airport shooting

— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) January 8, 2017

“Olga and her husband, Ralph, could always be found at 5:00 pm Mass, in the front of the Tabernacle side,” reads the statement. “They were always happy and approachable!”

Woltering’s husband escaped without injury, according to ABC affiliate WSB-TV.

Their church held Mass Saturday evening in Woltering’s honor, according to WSB-TV.

“Olga Woltering was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and good friend to many,” her son Tim Woltering said. She, along with our father, Ralph, is the cornerstone of our family and while she’s absent in our lives now, she remains in our hearts, thoughts and memories forever,” said son Tim Woltering.

Woltering also had an outgoing personality and put family first, according to the church’s Facebook post. “Olga was so charming, calling everybody ‘Lovey’ or ‘Love’ in her unmistakable British accent,” the statement reads. “Her life revolved around her kids, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and hundreds of extended family at Transfiguration.”

The church’s Father Fernando Molina-Restrepo said in the Facebook post, “Olga was one of the most joyful, loving, caring and committed people I have ever met. This is a horrible tragedy for everyone here at Transfiguration, especially because Olga was so loved. Olga and Ralph have been members of our Transfiguration Family since October 1978. May God give consolation to all of the victims of this tragedy and may God give eternal rest to those who died. Especially to our beloved Olga. Peace.”

Another victim from the shooting attack, Michael Oehme, also headed to Fort Lauderdale for a cruise, with his wife Kari.

And Deb Campbell, a friend of Kari, told ABC affiliate KETV in Omaha, Nebraska, “Not only will [Kari] have to heal physically but how do you heal a broken heart? … Two people just trying to take a vacation get gunned down randomly not to mention the other poor souls who were also killed. Absolutely mindless.”

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Dozens of Vehicles Involved in Massive Pile-Up in Connecticut

Connecticut State Police(MIDDLETOWN, Conn.) — Almost two dozen vehicles were involved in a massive pile-up crash earlier Saturday, according to Connecticut State Police.

State troopers reported at least 20 cars, three tractor-trailers and a tanker crashed into each other on Interstate 91 south, causing the road to be closed between exit 21 and exit 25 for several hours.

#CTtraffic: I-91 sb x21 Middletown closed for multi-car crash. Troopers report at least 20 cars, 3 TT’s, a tanker. No serious injuries.

— CT State Police (@CT_STATE_POLICE) January 7, 2017

No one was seriously injured in the crash, officials said.

Connecticut State Police cautioned drivers on Twitter to reduce speed and clear ice and snow off their vehicles.

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Army Mom Home from Iraq Surprises Two Daughters at High School

Courtesy of Beth Prekker(MIDLOTHIAN, Va.) — Caroline and Lindsay Prekker thought they were guest speaking in Caroline’s ethics class at Cosby High School in Midlothian, Virginia, on the topic of health care for veterans.

Their mom, Army Colonel Beth Prekker, was supposed to be a guest speaker via Skype too, but there was a technical issue — or so the girls thought.

As the girls sat listening to their teacher, Lindsay noticed someone familiar out of the corner of her eye.

“All of a sudden her jaw dropped and her eyes popped open and she smacked Caroline and the girls just lost it. It was great,” Beth told ABC News of surprising the girls in person, home from her 9-month deployment in Iraq.

“We’ve seen all these videos and it was nice to be a part of one this time,” Beth’s husband Rick, also retired military, said of pulling off the surprise of a lifetime.

The girls knew their mom was back stateside at Fort Hood in Texas, “but they didn’t know how long it would take to go through all the processing,” Beth explained. “We were originally anticipating about two weeks but they rushed everyone through.”

She was able to get home sooner than expected, landing in Virginia on Wednesday and spending the night in a hotel to surprise the girls at school Thursday morning.

Caroline’s teacher helped coordinate the surprise, as she had done previously during both of the parents’ multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Caroline’s teacher has been amazing with things like this,” Beth said. “I was mentioning coming home and she said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something. I’ll do something with my ethics class.’ It’s been probably a month or two that we’ve been planning, but it has all been dependent on when I was going to get home.”

The happy family celebrated a belated Christmas last night and look forward to spending more quality time together before Beth has to head back to Wichita, Kansas, where she is stationed.

“Caroline and I want to go out to lunch with her boyfriend and his mom. I haven’t met them yet,” Beth said. “Go to the movies. Just do the things we like to do together. We had fun yesterday just hanging out together.”

As for today, Beth is already right back to her mom duties, accompanying her oldest, Lindsay, to the dentist to have her wisdom teeth removed.

“It’s exactly what I want to be doing,” she said.

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