SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than four years before accused airport shooter Esteban Santiago killed five and wounded six others, Puerto Rico police in his hometown of Penuelas confiscated one or more handguns he possessed while conducting an investigation into his behavior.
What exactly triggered the investigation is not known, since Santiago’s file has been removed from the Firearms License Office here, presumably by federal investigators, according to police press officer Edward Ramirez.
“It had to be some kind of complaint,” Ramirez said.
What is known is that after an investigation that lasted nearly two years, Santiago’s weapon or weapons were returned to him in May 2014, Ramirez said.
Santiago, 26, who was taken into federal custody after the shooting Jan. 6 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, deployed to Iraq in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard, spending a year as a combat engineer in a platoon that placed and detonated explosives.
When he flew to Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 6 aboard a flight from Alaska, he arrived with one piece of checked luggage: a 9 mm handgun.
It is not known whether that was a gun he purchased or owned in Puerto Rico before moving to Anchorage, Alaska.
With Santiago’s complete police file now unavailable for inspection, Ramirez said he can see only in a computer summary the dates pertaining to Santiago after he first applied for a license to own a handgun in July 2011.
As a reason for wanting to own a gun in Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth, Santiago checked a category called “tiro al blanco,” meaning sport or target shooting, Ramirez said.
After being granted a license to own a gun, Santiago in September 2011 applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Ramirez said records indicate.
The next computer entry shows that police confiscated whatever weapons he had in March 2012 after a complaint, according to Ramirez.
That investigation was concluded in May 2014, when police returned to Santiago the weapon or weapons they had seized.
Under the license to own a firearm granted in July 2011, Santiago owned four different firearms, all handguns, records indicate. It is not clear whether Santiago owned all of the guns at the same time, or serially, Ramirez said.
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