Joshua Kaleb Watson, the first victim named in the Pensacola mass shooting, was remembered by his brother as having “died a hero.” His Alabama high school wrote that Josh Watson was “an incredible young man that would have made this country, this world a better place.”
“We are beyond proud but there is a [hole] in our hearts that can never be filled,” Adam Watson, Josh’s brother, wrote in a moving Facebook post about Joshua, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and told friends that serving his country was his dream. He was remembered for his sportsmanship.
Watson said in a video interview that he wanted to “get through flight school and maybe go fly jets.”
Watson’s sister-in-law Jennifer wrote on Facebook: “My brother in law did not die in vain he was and has always been a hero amongst everyone he touched and loved! I’m am soo proud to call him my brother! His accomplishments and dedication to this country will never be forgotten! I love you my Pootalito ❤️❤️❤️(inside joke). Please keep praying for my family though we are hurting deeply your prayers help us to try and find peace and comfort during this difficult time! Thank you all!”
Watson was identified by WSFA-TV, which said he was a graduate of Enterprise High School in Alabama.
Authorities say that a member of the Saudi Air Force, a Saudi national named Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, opened fire while in a classroom at Pensacola Naval Air Station (Pensacola NAS) on December 6, 2019. When the dust cleared, three people were dead (not counting the shooter, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy). Eight other people were injured and rushed to hospitals. The other victims are Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, Student, Naval Aviation Schools Command, 21, from Richmond Hill, Georgia and Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, Student, Naval Aviation Schools Command, 19, from St. Petersburg, Florida.
Authorities are investigating whether terrorism was the motive for the attack, which unfolded over two floors of a classroom building on the military base. However, they have not yet declared it so. Meanwhile, a site that track jihadist activity online claims it’s unearthed a manifesto on Twitter that may have been written by the shooter. You can learn more about that here. The Associated Press is now reporting that the base shooter hosted a dinner party to watch mass shooting videos during the week before the attack, citing an anonymous U.S. official.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in a news conference that he had spoken to the president. “This is a special place… all these brave warriors who wear the wings, they come here for flight training. This is a dark day for a very great place.” He said it “strikes at the heart of the community” – both Pensacola and the Navy overall.
“This day will be etched in your memory for the rest of your life,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said of the effect on families and the Naval community. But he said people could be proud of the Navy and community. “Thank God for the United States of America,” Morgan said.
Here’s what you need to know about Joshua Kaleb Watson:
1. Watson’s Brother Says Joshua Gave His Life ‘for His Country’
Watson’s brother, Adam Watson, wrote a heart-wrenching Facebook post that has been shared thousands of times.
“Today has been the worst day of my life,” he wrote.
“My youngest brother gave his life for his country in a senseless shooting. Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own. After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a whole (sic) in our hearts that can never be filled. When we were little I gave Kaleb the name little poot and it stuck. It eventually evolved into poot is and finally uncle poot. Just wish I could talk to him one more time or wrestle with him one more time even though he could probably take me now. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers in this difficult time.”
2. Joshua Kaleb Watson Dreamed of Serving His Country & Was Remembered by His High School as an ‘Incredible Young Man’
Joshua Kaleb Watson “dreamed of going to the Naval Academy and serving his country,” according to WSFA. He was very accomplished, dating back to high school.
WSFA reported that Watson was a 2014 Enterprise High School graduate, where he was rifle team squad captain, a member of JROTC, National Honor Society, and the French Honor Society. According to News Daily, “Watson was a senior at the US Naval Academy last spring, and was a four-year member of the school’s NCAA rifle team.”
“Words cannot describe the feeling of pain and sadness we feel in learning of the tragic death of EHS graduate Josh Watson,” Enterprise High School wrote on its Facebook page. “Josh was an incredible young man with an incredibly bright future. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Watson family and other families dealing with this horrible act of violence. We truly lost an incredible young man that would have made this country, this world a better place. God bless.”
3. Joshua Filled His Facebook Page With Pictures Showing Him in Uniform
On his Facebook page, Joshua shared photos showing him in uniform. “Hellll yes. Future of Naval Aviation right here,” wrote one friend on a January post.
Other than one photo showing him with a surfboard, his visible posts on Facebook show him with a life focused on the Navy.
The small community of Enterprise, Alabama is reeling. “Word came late yesterday that one of the victims was one of ours. Joshua Watson was an exceptional young man. I know our community will rally around his family and give him all the honor he deserves,” posted an Enterprise gift shop’s Facebook page. Population about 26,000, Enterprise is located in the southeastern part of Coffee County.
4. A Friend Remembered How Watson Was ‘the Nicest & Most Respectful Athlete’
A friend, Lauren Ashley, also wrote a tribute. “The world will not be the same without you Josh! Seeing your face on the news this morning continues to break my heart after hearing about the tragedy yesterday,” she wrote.
“Joshua Kaleb Watson was hands down the nicest and most respectful athlete that we loved dearly at NC State everytime we competed against Navy Rifle. Yesterday the tragedy at NAS Pensacola leaves our rifle community heartbroken and feeling for his entire family.”
She added, “I will never forget Josh for his sportsmanship and friendship! My team and I will never forget the card games, jokes and shenanigans at rifle matches. Thinking of his family all day ? A hero and truly great human being is gone too soon. All tens from now, on we love you! #JKW.”
5. A Former Teacher Remembered Watson for Being Respectful & Articulate
A former teacher joined in the tributes.
“I taught Joshua Kaleb Watson English his 10th grade year,” wrote Barbara Steger on Facebook.
“He was a very respectful, kind, and articulate young man. This saddens me so much as no mother or father should have to lose their child to violence. I pray for peace and comfort for the family.”
Nancy Jennings wrote: “My heart is broken. Such a pleasure to teach. His enthusiasm and work ethic was contagious! Loved by faculty AND students ??.”