Yesterday, Star and Stripes released a detailed account of the life of Fort Lauderdale shooter, Esteban Santiago. There are a lot of things in this article we should be talking about, like why he was removed from the military and why he was given his gun back after telling FBI officials he was hearing voices that were linked to ISIS. What is greatly undiscussed, and even downplayed in this article, is something that should have stood out to law enforcement and family: his domestic violence arrests.
While Stars & Stripes says he was arrested for allegedly “roughing up” his girlfriend (a victim they chose to name rather than protect), he was actually arrested for breaking down her door, attacking her, hitting her on the head and trying to strangle her (allegedly again). When people say there were “no clues” that he would attack innocent people and gun them down, I think of former FBI agent Gavin de Becker, who I believe was the one who said there are always clues, but we choose to overlook them. Clues such as his being removed from the Guard or hearing voices. While his neighbors may not have known about those instances, it’s likely that many people did know about his violence against his girlfriend, the mother of his child. And likely overlooked it as a lot of people do with domestic violence cases.
What is very concerning to me is how Santiago was able to get his gun back when he had a court order to stay away from his girlfriend. In Utah, anyone with a restraining order or court order is not allowed to own, carry or have access to a gun. How do I know this? I have a court order on behalf of my son to protect him from family members who abused him. And I suspect that order to not have a gun is being violated right now by one of the parties. While I’m an advocate for the Second Amendment and have many guns myself, it greatly concerns me that laws already in place to protect us from dangerous people are not being enforced. Those who break the law are the reason law-abiding citizens are having their Second Amendment rights attacked.
What also really scares me is the downplaying of his domestic violence arrests in the media. Is that not a clear sign of bad things to come when someone must show control, dominance and physical violence against someone he deems weaker than himself? On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is almost common and yet few want to have this discussion. While not every abuser is going to shoot innocent people at an airport, I would point to these stats to show why this is a sign or clue of bad things still to come:
- An abuser will blame others for all problems or for the abuser’s own shortcomings.
- Someone is always out to get the abuser or is an obstacle to the abuser’s achievements.
- An abusive person is easily insulted, perceiving the slightest setbacks as personal attacks.
- Explosive behavior and moodiness, which can shift quickly to congeniality, are typical of people who beat their partners.
Abusers will take their pain out on other people. They will punish others for their failures. They do not take accountability or responsibility.
These sound like clear signs to me. I believe if we spent more time focusing on what would be considered a “smaller crime,” in this case his many domestic violence arrests, we could prevent some of the mass murders. At no point should someone who is given a restraining order for abusing a loved one be given the right to carry a gun.
Further, I think we need to have more discussions in this country about what happens to military members who are deployed with friends and colleagues who are killed or commit suicide. I think there are a lot of areas where the systems in place to protect Americans actually let America down.
IF YOU ARE IN DANGER PLEASE CALL 911
FOR ANONYMOUS, CONFIDENTIAL HELP, 24/7, PLEASE CALL:
1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)