Teacher Describes Moment She Was Saved by Complete Stranger During Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting
Anika Dean said she saw Esteban Santiago coming toward her, shooting.
Accused Fort Lauderdale shooter Esteban Santiago appeared Monday in federal court, where he was told, if he is convicted, he faces the death penalty.
"The maximum penalty, if you were to be convicted, is death – it is a capital offense," U.S. Magistrate Alicia Valle told him.
During Friday’s shooting inside Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale Airport, five people were killed and many others were injured.
Schoolteacher Anika Dean said her life was saved, thanks to a complete stranger.
“I saw the shooter. He was coming towards us, shooting. I lay down and instantly began praying,” she recalled to Inside Edition.
She says out of nowhere a man jumped on top of her and shielded her from the rain of gunfire.
“He shielded my entire body and at the same time he said, 'I will protect you,' and I immediately felt comforted in what was definitely the most terrifying experience of my life," she recalled.
The hero has been identified as 70-year-old Tony Bartosciewicz, a retired electrician from Rochester, New York. He is currently vacationing on a cruise ship.
His son and namesake spoke to both Inside Edition and the school teacher.
“I just hope he knows how truly grateful I am and not just me but every single one of my family members and friends," Dean told Bartosciewicz's son. "I have one friend who said she's going to for the next month, do service in honor of what Tony did for me."
Taken aback by what Dean said, the younger Bartosciewicz said, "truly amazing!"
The alleged gunman’s former girlfriend is also speaking out. She told ABC News that the 26-year-old veteran returned from combat in Iraq with severe mental problems.
“He started acting weird when he was in Puerto Rico and he tried to let veterans know that he was having mental problems, that he wasn’t feeling all right and they did nothing,” she claimed.
He was hospitalized for a four days in November after telling FBI agents he was hearing voices telling him to watch ISIS videos. He reportedly created a terrorist alter-ego, Aashiq Hammad.
Yet his gun was given back to him after his release from the hospital, the same weapon used in the airport shooting.
"You would think based on what we've been told, that guy should not have had a firearm he just shouldn't have had it," Former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik told Inside Edition. "They should have taken it away.”
Friday's shooting spree is now raising questions about what is seen as a lack of security at airport baggage claims around the nation.
Most baggage claim areas can be entered without going through a security check, even from the street level, but Kerik says that's unlikely to change.
He said: “Nobody expects some lunatic to take a gun out of his bag or have some kind of weapon in a bag that he's going to use on this end of the flight.”
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