Yesterday afternoon, Fort Lauderdale resident Esteban Marcelo Guzman-Santiago got off work and noticed that about a hundred comments had poured onto a Facebook video he had posted from an awards ceremony.
"Is this the guy???" someone wrote. Another person wrote, "I'd be a killer to [sic] if I had a face that looked like that."
Guzman-Santiago, age 23, quickly realized he had the misfortune of sharing a name with the man who opened fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in a rampage that killed five and injured eight yesterday. That, coupled with the fact that he lives in Fort Lauderdale, apparently led internet sleuths to think they'd found their guy.
"Your a peice [sic] of shit I hope u burn to death," a West Virginia man told Guzman-Santiago in a message.
In the comments on Guzman-Santiago's video, others debated whether they'd truly found the culprit. Maybe this Esteban wasn't the right size. Plus, the video, posted about an hour after the shooting, didn't look like it was filmed in an airport.
"Yall FB a name and think yall solved the crime," one woman wrote.
In fact, the true shooter had been apprehended almost immediately after the shooting, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said during a news conference. By the time Guzman-Santiago left work around 5:30 p.m., the gunman had been in custody for several hours.
That didn't stop the armchair detectives from forming an internet mob, though. As Guzman-Santiago drove home from the call center where he works, his phone rang, and it was someone asking if he was the shooter. He'd had enough.
"Listen, everybody who is messaging me, texting me, calling me, asking me am I this motherfucking shooter," he said in a Facebook Live video, "I just left from work. I just got through from graduating from the training program. How in the goddamn fuck am I the goddamn shooter?"
He added that if he was the shooter, "I wouldn't be responding to your motherfucking comments any motherfucking way."
In an interview with New Times, Guzman-Santiago says it was nerve-wracking that people assumed he was the culprit — especially when he got the phone call. He's dismayed that people were so quick to jump to conclusions.
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And he worries about how the name association will follow him.
"When you go somewhere and they're like, 'Oh, your name is Esteban Santiago,' and you verify your name, even though they may not say something in the moment, in the back of their head, they might be worried, 'Is he in any way associated with this guy?'" Guzman-Santiago says.
The man believed to have carried out the shooting, which happened just before 1 p.m. in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, is a 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq. In November, according to the Miami Herald, he visited an FBI office in Anchorage, where he was reportedly living, to confess he felt compelled to fight for ISIS. He was sent for psychiatric help.
A profile belonging to that Esteban Santiago has already disappeared from Facebook.