Florida shooting, policing and Mental Illness

Esteban Santiago, the gunman implicated in the Florida Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, reputedly walked into the office of the FBI in Alaska a few weeks prior to the shooting. He alleged that the US Government has somehow taken control of his mind and that he was suffering from the thoughts of terrorism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation took him in for four days, evaluated, and then left off. The reason was simple, analyzing mentally challenged people takes a lot of effort, time and resources. The FBI has neither.

Mental patient

One thing is certain. Santiago suffered from mental problems. This was corroborated by his relatives. They said that his behavior had become erratic at the time of the shooting. When serving in Iraq, he saw a bomb exploding near his two friends. Bryan, Santiago’s brother, said that the latter had one point asked for psychological help- but did not received any. It is unclear to what extent he was treated.

The FBI again picked up Santiago in November. He spoke in a disjointed manner and his body language revealed that he was agitated. He was then handed over to the police. According to authorities, Santiago did not intend to hurt any other person and the law enforcement authorities have no legal authority to detain him. It was thus surprising that only a few weeks later, he killed five people in now what is described as one of the deadliest recorded airport attacks in US history. Six people were wounded as well, in the attack.

Inadequate health system

Both mental health experts and law enforcement officials agree that the weak mental health system of the country is to blame. Officers now actually do the work of crisis counselors. Majority of the states insist stringency for involuntary hospitalization and stipulate that the patient must be a threat both to themselves and also for someone else. It was insisted by the FBI Anchorage branch that Santiago was not considered dangerous at the time of interview.

According to Greg Champagne, the Sheriff of St. Charles Parish, the problem is not easy to solve. The simple solution of locking a person away only because he was hearing voices cannot be solution. Experts concur; they say that mental illness does not equate to violence. In fact, individuals suffering from mental health problems are more the victims and less of a perpetrator in most cases.

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