In high school, Mohammed Haitham was a track star. In death, he died a hero. The former Lakewood High School athlete was one of the victims who lost their lives in the Pensacola NAS mass shooting. He was remembered as a good person with a good soul who joined the Navy out of high school.
Haitham was 19, beloved by those who knew him, and with a bright future ahead of him. “The media will be reporting soon that Mohammed Haitham was one of the victims in the Pensacola shooting yesterday,” wrote Kimberly Walker, a family friend, on Facebook. “He died trying to stop the shooter. We knew this was the case before they told us. If you knew Mo this is no surprise.”
Haitham grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“NOT ONE PERSON have something bad to say bout you,” wrote Haitham’s friend, Dierra Bradley, in a Facebook tribute.
Three people died and eight more were injured when a Saudi Air Force officer named Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani took out a handgun and began firing. Both of the first two victims named – Mohammed Haitham and Joshua Watson – showed heroism in their final moments, family members say.
Authorities say that Alshamrani opened fire while in a classroom at Pensacola Naval Air Station (Pensacola NAS) on December 6, 2019. A sheriff’s deputy killed him. The third victim’s name is Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, Student, Naval Aviation Schools Command, 21, from Richmond Hill, Georgia.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mohammed Haitham Was a Track Star Remembered for His Big Smile & High Jumping Scores
Mohammed Haitham, a Lakewood High School track and field star, was first named as a Pensacola victim by by The Tampa Bay Times.
According to the Times, Mohammed Haitham was a “track and field star at Lakewood, known for his long legs, big smile and good high jump scores.”
Friends are filling social media with tributes as word spreads about Haitham’s death.
Friend Dierra Bradley wrote on Facebook, “Me and Mohammed Haitham used to talk about EVERYTHING?, he was my open ear to talk about my baking business, anime movies and whatever else came to our mind. He was so excited about traveling and being in the service. He’s just gone way to soon???? #LLM.”
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 tracks 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 dinner party to watch mass shooting videos…before fatal attack,” according to Fox 6 Phoenix.
2. Haitham’s Mother Says He Tried to Stop the Shooter & His Stepmother Says His Life Was Taken by a ‘Senseless Coward’
Haitham’s mother told the Tampa Bay newspaper that she was told by officials that Haitham was a hero who “did try to stop the shooter.” She is also a Navy veteran.
Brenda Delgado Haitham, his stepmother, wrote on Facebook, “Inna lilahi wa inna alayhi rajioon. My step son Mohammed, was one of the victims whose life was taken by a senseless coward, on Friday’s Naval- Base attack. May Allah grant my husband, Mohammed’s mom, and the rest of his family, strength and patience through this. ?”
A friend responded, “Prayers to you and your family. We appreciate his dedication and service to our country. It’s so terribly sad for his young life to be taken in this way. May God be with you guys.”
Haitham, called Mo by some friends, posted photos of himelf running track to his Facebook page. His relatives commented on some of those photos. “Proud of you son love you ?” said one post. However, Haitham commented, “Thank you uncle.” That relative recently moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to Facebook posts.
“Proud of you son keep up with the good work,” read another comment from his father. Haitham’s dad posted Haitham’s military photo to his Facebook page after his son’s death. It filled up with well wishes. “may allah bless your son and keep you in his hand,” read one. “May God have mercy on him, God willing, and to him we will return,” read another condolence.
3. Haitham Joined the Navy Right After High School Graduation
Haitham graduated from high school in 2018 and joined the Navy.
His friend Dierra wrote in a lengthy tribute that she “couldn’t sleep last night with the thought that your no longer here, sending you messages, HOPING you’d reply back telling me this is not true and that your okay/fine. But i can’t wrap my mind around the fact that I lost one of my bestfriends yesterday.”
She added: “I remember being nervous to talk to you because I had a crush on you, and how we be became lab partners in chem and would always joke around. You was nothing but a good person/soul, you ALWAYS made me laugh and was VERY kind, NOT ONE PERSON have something bad to say bout you. You was full of good energy and positive vibes, even on your worse days. I still remember the last day/time I saw/spoke to you, and your last words to me. It just doesn’t feel real, and yet I don’t want it to. RIP Jitterbug, Love You forever and always??????? #RIPMohammed Mohammed Haitham #mylightskincrush #jitterbug #PIC.”
4. Haitham, Who Had Just Finished Boot Camp, Filled His Facebook Page With Pictures of Videogames & Track
Haitham’s social media presence shows an interest in athletics and videogames. He also posted several videos about the Navy.
According to The Tampa Bay Times, Haitham had just finished boot camp and “recently was assigned to flight crew training in Florida.” Here is one of the Navy videos he shared.
He also shared videos showing him dunking a basketball.
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.
5. Joshua Kaleb Watson, One of the Other Victims, Was an Alabaman Who Wanted to Serve His Country
Joshua Kaleb Watson “dreamed of going to the Naval Academy and serving his country,” according to WSFA-TV, which reported that Watson was a 2014 EHS graduate, where he was rifle team squad captain, a member of JROTC, National Honor Society, and the French Honor Society.
Watson’s brother, Adam Watson, wrote a heart-wrenching Facebook post.
“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 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.”
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.
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.”