FBI agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein leads airport case

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Airport Shooting Florida_396418

People stand on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a lone shooter opened fire inside the terminal, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday, killing several people and wounding others before being taken into custody, officials said. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Iraq war veteran accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim is due for his first court appearance.

Esteban Santiago is scheduled to be in Fort Lauderdale federal court Monday morning. The 26-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he’s convicted.

The initial hearing Monday is likely to focus on ensuring Santiago has a lawyer and setting future dates. Santiago has been held without bail since his arrest after Friday’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The FBI has says Santiago flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Florida with a handgun in his checked bag. Agents say he retrieved the gun and emerged from an airport bathroom firing.

The FBI agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein alone for months after the former Iraqi leader’s capture is now leading the investigation into the Florida airport shooting rampage. George Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami field office, was Saddam’s sole interrogator beginning in January 2004.

In previous interviews, Piro has said Saddam did not know his true identity — the Iraqi leader called him “Mr. George” — and that he posed as a high-level envoy who answered directly to then-President George W. Bush. Now the 49-year-old Piro, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, fluent in Arabic and Assyrian, is in charge of the FBI investigation into the shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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