Gabriel Romero was identified as the U.S. sailor who shot three Department of Defense civilian workers at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, killing two. Another victim is being treated at a local hospital. Romero, 22, then killed himself with his service gun.
Romero, a submariner, was officially identified by the military Friday. He was on-duty at the time of the shooting and was assigned to stand watch on his submarine, officials said during press conference. Prior to the shooting, he faced disciplinary problems at work, according to Hawaii News Now. He was also enrolled in anger management courses.
Romero was an active-duty member of the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the USS Columbia, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine. He used his service weapon to commit the shooting, firing shots at three civilians, killing two and injuring a third.
The shipyard was on lockdown for nearly two hours on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, starting about 2:15 p.m. local time. The access gates were closed. The lockdown was lifted about 4:10 p.m. The shooting occurred near Drydock 2, one of the four shipyards on the base. The base is located about 8 miles from Honolulu. All three of the victims were male shipyard workers.
The military was offering support to the families of the victims while the U.S. Navy led the investigation, according to Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii. One of the victims has been identified as 30-year-old Vincent Kapoi Jr., family members and friends say. The second victim was identified by family members as Roldan Agustin.
Romero was an active duty member of the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the USS Columbia, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine.
Text alerts and a PA system alerted base personnel to the shooting and warned them to take cover. The situation was still “unfolding,” nearly one hour after the incident began. About 3:30 p.m. local time, officials said that the suspect, later identified as Gabriel Romero, had been “secured.” A shipyard worker told Honolulu Civil Beat that he heard emergency sirens go off about 2 p.m., but did not receive a DOD text alert until about an hour later.
The shooting at Pearl Harbor occurred just three days before the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that prompted the United States to join World War II. Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A total of 1,177 crew members were killed on the U.S. Arizona. The attack prompted the United States to declare war on Japan. Shortly afterward, the U.S. declared war on Germany. The shooting occurred about a mile from the site of the national memorial.
Few details about Romero have been released so far. As of Friday, officials have declined to release basic information about Romero, including his photo and hometown. Here’s what is known so far about Romero and the shooting:
1. Romero Was an Active-Duty Sailor Assigned to a Nuclear Powered Fast Attack Submarine & He Used His Service Weapon in the Shooting
The military identified the gunman as a 22-year-old U.S. Navy petty officer assigned to the USS Columbia. Officials publicly named Romero Friday.
“The subject responsible for the violence, a Navy sailor, was discovered deceased upon arrival from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” said Norman Dominesey, NCIS Special Agent in Charge of the Hawaii Field Office. “The subject was assigned as a duty watch stander, and was armed for security duties.”
He said the three victims were found and immediately rushed to hospitals. Officials conducted a sweep of the area, and found no additional suspects.
“At the time of the event, several thousand shipyard employees were in a controlled industrial area where the incident occurred,” Dominesey continued.
Witnesses told investigators the suspect shot the three employees before turning the weapon on himself.
“And all of this happened in approximately 23 seconds,” he said.
Officials collected evidence from the scene, Romero’s car and his room. They are examining his phone and other devices to determine a motive.
“There is no known motive at this time. There is no information to suggest there are additional threats to this installation, and there is no information that this incident has any ties to domestic terrorism.”
The Columbia is a Los Angeles-class submarine, meaning it is a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine. At the time of the attack, the Columbia was in drydock for maintenance, and Romero was assigned as an armed guard to monitor the submarine. The base is home to 10 destroyers and 15 submarines, including the Columbia. It is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
Romero was officially identified by the military Friday. The Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam described him as a machinist’s mate auxiliary fireman in a tweet.
Two Department of Defense civilians died following a shooting at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam on Dec. 4. The shooter, a Navy Sailor assigned to USS Columbia (SSN 771), died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The civilians have been identified:
– Vincent J. Kapoi of Hawaii, Metals Inspector Apprentice, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
– Roldan A. Agustin of Hawaii, Shop Planner (Nondestructive Testing), Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
The Navy Sailor was identified as Machinist’s Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of Texas, assigned to USS Columbia (SSN 771). The submarine, homeported in in Pearl Harbor, remains in dry-dock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for routine maintenance.
“I would like to start by again extending all of our condolences to the families of the victims and all involved in this tragic event. We are obviously all ‘ohana here and this is hurting all of us,” Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said in a press conference Friday morning.
He said the Navy was providing support to the families and to sailors and shipyard workers. Counselors were made available at the base to talk to those in need of mental health support.
“I know that this atrocity will leave scars in the hearts of many,” said Kenji Price, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii during a press conference Friday. “Our Navy, the state of Hawaii, and the country as a whole are left with memories of innocent lives lost and a state of emptiness that will permeate our hearts.”
The military base wrote on Twitter shortly after the lockdown ended Wednesday, “Officials at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam report the shooting incident at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard has been secured. One person is confirmed dead. The shooter has been identified as a U.S. Sailor. #PearlHarbor”
A scanner feed described the incident as a mass casualty event with at least three victims at 1:55 p.m. on Oahu.
“It has been a tough few days for our Navy family so keep them in your prayers in this holiday season,” said Eli S. Miranda, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Honolulu Field Office during a press conference Friday. “However our community is strong, and we will overcome this senseless act.”
He said the shooting appeared to be an isolated incident, and that the shooter appeared to have acted alone. Romero did not appear to be motivated by “any particular ideology,” he said.
“I want the community to know that we are all in this together, and that the FBI along with our friends in the U.S. Navy, NCIS, and every agency here represented today are working tirelessly to bring closure to this despicable and horrific act,” he said. “I know the community has concerns regarding safety and security. As Special Agent in Charge Dominesey stated earlier, this is an ongoing investigation, and there are a lot of questions yet to be answered.”
He committed to “finding answers to all of these unanswered questions.”
Officials provided only very basic information during the press conference two days after the shooting. They declined to provide substantive answers to any questions posed by reporters and walked out abruptly while reporters asked why Romero was allowed to have guns when he was facing disciplinary action.
Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the United States, which the Honolulu Civil Beat attributes to cultural differences and stricter gun control laws, including red flag laws. Hawaii had 39 deaths due to gun violence in 2017, which was the lowest number of deaths by state and the lowest rate of deaths per capita by state. In 2017, 2.5 people per 100,000 died from gun violence, compared to 3,513 gun deaths in Texas the same year, or 12.4 per 100,000.
The last known mass shooting in Hawaii, dubbed the “Xerox shooting,” occurred in 1999 and left seven people dead. Forty-year-old Bryan K. Uyesugi was a disgrutled employee who opened fire at a Xerox office along Nimitz Highway, according to a 1999 Star Bulletin article. Wednesday’s shooting does not constitute a mass shooting by most definitions, which define a mass shooting as a shooting that leaves four or more people dead, excluding the shooter.
2.Gabriel Romero Was Facing Disciplinary Action & Was Unhappy With His Naval Commanders
U.S. Navy sailor Gabriel Romero was unhappy with his naval commanders, and he was facing punishment for misconduct, Navy officials told the Associated Press. Sources speaking anonymously to Hawaii News Now expressed concerns that Romero was assigned as an armed guard to the USS Columbia while he was facing disciplinary action and enrolled in anger management courses.
Romero was facing non-judicial punishment, which is a lower-level administrative process for minor misconduct. Officials, who were speaking on conditions of anonymity, did not specify what led to Romero’s punishment. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is leading the investigation. The U.S. Navy has made limited official statements since the shooting took place on Wednesday. During a press conference Friday, officials declined to answer questions about why Romero was allowed to possess guns while he was facing discipline, citing an ongoing investigation, and declined to answer general policy questions.
Hawaii News Now has learned that Romero was up for a captain’s mast, a military criminal proceeding that is below a court martial, also called an Article 15.
Retired Army Col. Gregory Gross, who was the presiding judge over part of the court martial for Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, told Hawaii News Now the reasons behind the punishment are important to provide context about whether Romero should have been assigned to armed guard duty. Gross said it is important to know why Romero was being disciplined and why he had taken anger management classes before determining if he should have been allowed on armed watch.
“If it’s something minor and he was going to anger management then you would have to say he’s not a danger to anybody,” Gross said. “But yes, it could be significant though. If he had significant health problems and was given a weapon.”
Romero previously had injuries from punching equipment, including lockers, multiple sources told the news outlet.
Romero is accused of killing two people and shooting a third. The first victim was identified as 30-year-old Vincent Kapoi Jr., who was recently married. The second deceased victim was identified by family members as Roldan Agustin, a 49-year-old military veteran. Each of the victims was a male civilian workers on the shipyard. Jamie Hiranaka, the president of the union representing the workers, told the Associated Press they were all quality assurance inspectors. They checked welding and other work completed by shipyard workers.
The union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 121 Hawaii, said in a statement it was doing everything possible to help workers get through the shooting.
“Workers were in lockdown on base for hours yesterday; some were witnesses, others heard the gun shots, others locked down into the closest building they could find but most were locked in their offices not knowing (what) was happening. Many emotions were felt yesterday but most were of fear, terror, sadness and grief,” the statement said.
3. Romero Used His M4 Service Rifle in the Shooting & Then Killed Himself With a M9 Service Pistol
Gabriel Romero had been disciplined before the shooting, and was ordered to attend anger management courses, service members told Hawaii News Now. He opened fire on civilians when he was armed and on duty, assigned to stand guard over the USS Columbia.
The submarine was undergoing repairs at Drydock 2. The service members who spoke to the news outlet expressed concerns that Romero was assigned to an armed position when he had faced disciplinary problems, and when he was assigned to anger management courses.
Romero was on-duty during the shooting and used his service weapon, authorities said. Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson reports that Romero used an M4 service rifle to shoot the three men. Romero then shot himself in the head with his M9 service pistol, according to an incident report obtained by Fox News.
“The shooter was likely standing watch near the quarterdeck, the entry point to the submarine from the pier, when he opened fire. In port, a sub will typically employ a roving watch for security using a young enlisted sailor, as well as a petty officer of the watch and an officer of the deck on the quarterdeck to check ID cards of crew members and visitors attempting to board and disembark,” Fox News’ Tomlinson wrote.
The use of personal weapons on base is not authorized, Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick said at a press conference.
The Navy and Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office released the names of the victims Friday after completing an investigation. The medical examiner ruled Romero’s cause of death a suicide and ruled the deaths of victims Roldan Agustin and Vincent Kapui Jr. as homicide, according to the Star Advertiser. All three deaths were caused by gunshot wounds.
Shipyard Commander Capt. Greg Burton sent a message to shipyard employees, according to Hawaii News Now. It said in part, “I know that no words will convey the full measure of sorrow from today’s tragedy. This loss will be felt throughout our shipyard ‘Ohana, greater shipyard & NAVSEA family, submarine force, and the Navy as a whole.”
4. A Motive for the Shooting Hasn’t Been Released & It’s Not Yet Known if the Victims Were Targeted or Shot at Random
It was not immediately clear whether Gabriel Romero was targeting his victims, Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said in a press conference Wednesday.
As of Friday, officials have not released a motive for the shooting aside from saying it did not appear motivated by an ideology, it did not appear to be domestic terrorism, and it appeared the shooter acted alone.
“Obviously our thoughts are with the victims and everyone that was involved,” Chadwick said Wednesday. “This is certainly a tragedy for everyone here.”
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, and is being led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), along with assistance from other local, state and federal agencies. Honolulu Police and city officials said any resources needed by the military investigators would be provided.
The shooting occurred just three days before the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The military base was preparing to welcome survivors of the historic attack when the shooting occurred Wednesday. On Thursday, the survivors began returning to the place tragedy struck twice.
“As our Pearl Harbor veterans continue to arrive in preparation for the Dec. 7th commemoration, we are taking time to reflect on what has happened here in the last 24 hours,” the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to honor the memories of those we have lost both past & present.”
Chadwick also noted the proximity to the historic date during his press conference Wednesday evening. He said that the military was getting ready to commemorate the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
“We’re getting ready to celebrate, or at least honor, the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the role that the shipyard played in WWII is pretty legendary,” Chadwick said. “And the shipyard is well known for the amazing work they did then and the amazing work they continue to do, so this is certainly a tragedy for everyone here.”
5. One Witness Said He Saw Romero Shoot Himself & People Laying on the Ground in the Moments Following the Shooting
A witness told Hawaii News Now he saw the gunman, identified as Gabriel Romero, shoot himself. He was sitting at his desk when he heard loud pops and looked outside.
“I was at my desk and I heard loud pops, and I kind of recognized that as gunshots,” the witness said. “I looked out the window and I saw three people on the ground, and I looked out in time to see the shooter, who I assume was a sailor because he was in uniform, point the gun at his head and shoot himself.”
Both of the deceased victims died at local hospitals. One person was taken to the Tripler Army Medical Center, and a second person was taken to Pali Momi Medical Center.
A third person, a 36-year-old man, was taken to the Queen’s Medical Center, and was listed in stable condition, according to Hawaii News Now. He was identified as a 36-year-old man. About 100 witnesses were being interviewed about the shooting. All three of the victims were civilian employees with the Department of Defense.
Some service members who lived and worked on base rushed to the scene in hopes of offering help and learning information, they told NBC News.
“Our first response was to come here,” one man said, appearing tense with his head on a swivel.
He said he and his friend were getting haircuts when the shooting started. A mutual friend worked at Drydock 2. He was leaving when the shooting occurred and ran to his car.
“We want to know what’s going on. We want to help, obviously, but we can’t,” he said. “That’s probably the worst part.”
One of the victims has been named as 32-year-old Vincent Kapoi Jr. from Waianae, 30 miles northwest of Honolulu. The second was identified by family members as Roldan Agustin, a 49-year-old military veteran.
The active shooting caused panic on the military base, which operates as a small town. In total, there are around 66,000 people who live on the base.
One person wrote on Twitter in a reply to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s alert tweet, saying she was hiding in a pantry. She asked if the shooter, later identified as Gabriel Romero, was near base housing.
“I am hiding in my pantry at home, is the shooter near housing?” she wrote on Twitter.
Yoohyun Jung, a reporter with Honolulu Civil Beat, wrote on Twitter a man who was mostly unclothed appeared distraught.
“A man has been sitting at the gate with only his underwear on, looking distraught ever since the news people got here,” she wrote on Twitter. “Now he’s surrounded by three military cops at five HPD cops. We don’t know why.”
Alex Ojeda and Will Churchhill told Hawaii News Now they were reporting to their first day at work on base on the day of the shooting. They were leaving when the gunfire started.
“We were actually on our way out,” Ojeda said. “We didn’t expect that at all.”
Another military member told the news station he was getting a haircut when he started getting a flurry of text messages.
“We got a bunch of texts from on the ship and on the barge letting us know there’s an active shooter alert,” the service member said.
Support is being offered to the victims, their families, and anyone on base who is in need, according to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“Good morning, JBPHH fam,” the military base wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “In light of yesterday’s tragic events, we just want to remind you that we have counselors available if you need them. Our Military & Family Support Center is accepting walk-in appointments & will be open until 9:00 p.m. tonight. We are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to come in if you need us.
Pearl Harbor Chaplain: 473-3971
Emergency Family Assistance Center: 866-525-6676”
Councilwoman Kymberly Pine released a statement to KITV 4, saying she was “shocked and saddened.”
“I am shocked and saddened at the news that multiple people have been hurt in an active shooter situation at Pearl Harbor,” she said. “This is rattling for our community and my heart goes out to the families of the victims and emergency responders who are on the scene now.”
Gov. David Ige said the White House has offered assistance in the wake of the shooting.
“I join in solidarity with the people of Hawaii as we express our heartbreak over this tragedy and concern for those affected by the shooting,” Ige said.
Former state adjutant Gen. Robert Lee offered condolences to the victims and their families Thursday, according to a statement published by Hawaii News Now.
“You’re never thinking when you go the shipyard that you might not come home,” he said. “So this is a terrible event and my condolences go out to the victims’ families.”
Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami also issued a statement on the shooting.
“We are all shaken by this senseless act of violence,” he said. “All of Hawai‘i hurts when our ‘ohana gets hurt. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and all who serve our Country at the shipyard. We send our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”
The USS Columbia (SSN-771) is a 688-class submarine. The Columbia is a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine. It changed hands at a ceremony August 3, 2018, according to the U.S. Navy. At that time, it was transferred to the command of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Cmdr. Tyler Forrest became the commanding officer of Columbia, relieving Cmdr. Dave Edgerton as the commanding officer of Columbia.
“The Columbia is the Battle E boat for Squadron Seven. That means they were the best submarine out of the 10 that were in the squadron,” said Capt. Paul Davis, commander of the Submarine Squadron Seven Davis, during the ceremony. “Squadron Seven is unique in that it is the largest squadron of Los Angeles class submarines in the world. To stand out in such an outstanding crowd is an impressive achievement and a testament to the crew and their leader.”
Edgerton praised his crew for taking care of one another on the Columbia.
“The days when we faced personnel challenges were the days I saw this crew take care of each other and provide support to their shipmates,” he said during the ceremony. “Those were the days we learned humility and we were better as individuals and as a team because of it.”
The 688-class submarine was commissioned in 1995.
“Columbia is one of the most versatile weapons platforms ever placed in the world’s oceans, capable of long-range Tomahawk strike operations, anti-submarine and surface shipping operations, surveillance and intelligence gathering, and special forces insertions,” the U.S. Navy reported.