Esteban Santiago, 26, opened fire Friday at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport baggage claim area, gunning down 13 people. Hours later, a different Esteban Santiago in Miami was inundated with messages on social media asking whether he was the alleged shooter.
“Crazy day,” the falsely identified Santiago, 29, told International Business Times. Santiago was at work when people on Instagram and Twitter began asking him about his potential ties to the shooting.
The case of mistaken identity unfolded after U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, released the suspect’s name out live on MSNBC. Nelson said the accused shooter used a handgun during the mass shooting. Five people were killed and eight others were injured.
Once the name was unveiled, people took to social media to see if they could further identify the accused shooter, and in doing so, they bombarded the wrong Esteban Santiago.
“When the shooting was going on, I was helping out a party that was going on at my job,” he said. "Who wouldn't be annoyed?" he added.
Later that afternoon, after he was no longer considered a suspect on social media, Santiago told International Business Times he loves his name despite the misunderstanding.
“I don’t care what people think about it,” he said.
He said his focus was on the victims killed in Friday's shooting.
“I feel sad and sorry for those who are dead today," he said. "People are making fun of the name, but not thinking about the family’s who are not going to see their loved ones anymore.”
The Santiago who was named as the suspect in the shooting is a U.S. citizen with military identification. He was reportedly living in Lake Mary, Florida, at the time of the shooting, according to reports.
Santiago served as a combat engineer under the Alaska Army National Guard until August. He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard on Dec. 14, 2007 and was deployed to Iraq from April 23, 2010 to Feb. 19, 2011. Santiago received a general discharge for unsatisfactory performance.
The mass shooting saw authorities at airports around the nation increase their security.
“Airport Police are deploying additional resources into our terminals and an increased presence in the Central Terminal Area,” Los Angeles International Airport officials said on Twitter. “Airport Police are monitoring the situation in Florida closely. Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved.”
Transportation Security Administration did not immediately return a request for comment from the International Business Times.