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Was Florida shooter’s 2016 domestic violence incident a warning sign?

Raising alarm about domestic violence is always a popular thing to do, and journalists reporting on the topic know how to play on the fears of their readers. This can be seen in a recent Vox article discussing the fact that Esteban Santiago, the man who killed at least five people and wounded 45 others in the Fort Lauderdale shooting last week, was arrested and charged with domestic violence in January of 2016. This, the article insinuates, should have been a red flag for authorities.  

Going beyond Santiago, the article highlighted that many mass shooters have a history of domestic abuse, and stated that most incidents of mass shooting can qualify as incidents of domestic violence. The author of the article conceded that not all mass shooters have a history of domestic violence or other violent behavior, but emphasized that many do, citing the contention that men who are gearing up to engage in mass violence first rehearse it against their families, especially upon women and children. 

The author called domestic violence “a screaming red flag” indicating likely future violent behavior, citing high recidivism rates among those accused of domestic violence. The upshot of the article is that laws aimed at keeping guns away from domestic abusers should be strictly enforced and that states need to pass stricter measures to address loopholes and weak points in the law.

While it is certainly true that domestic violence can act as a predictor of future violence, including mass violence, it is interesting that the article passes quickly over other potential predictors, such as affiliation with or sympathy for terrorist organizations such as ISIS. That this may have been a factor in the case of Esteban Santiago is known. Yet the focus of the article is on his incident of domestic violence.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic and the importance of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing allegations of domestic violence

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