An active shooter who was a Saudi national opened fire in a classroom building at Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, killing three people and wounding eight more. The gunman is now dead, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department. Authorities described the horrific scene as looking “like a movie,” but it was all too real. The shooter was identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. You can read more about him here.
According to The New York Times, the gunman has been identified as a Saudi national. He was an aviation student, who served in the Saudi Air Force according to The Associated Press, which added that “military from around the globe” are at Pensacola NAS for training. The shooting erupted in a classroom building, authorities said in a press conference. Alshamrani was a member of the Saudi Air Force and the Florida governor says the Saudi government now owes the victims in Pensacola a debt.
Two of the victims have been named: Mohammed Haitham and Joshua Watson. You can read about their lives here. The third victim has not yet been named.
Authorities have not said whether they are considering the Pensacola shooting an act of terrorism but AP says they’re investigating to determine that. According to The Times, the base hosts international students for flight training. However, new reports claim the gunman may have left a manifesto on Twitter (it’s being investigated for verification), and the AP is now reporting he held a dinner party to watch mass shooting videos before the attack. You can read more about those angles later in this article.
Four people are deceased (including the suspect), and those wounded include two sheriff’s deputies, according to the sheriff. The shooting unfolded in a classroom. The deputies were shot in the knee and arm but are expected to live. The first victim was identified as Joshua Kaleb Watson. You can read more about the victims here.
At 6:51 a.m., the call went out, according to the Escambia County Sheriff, who said he couldn’t release all details because the investigation was ongoing. “I want to assure our community that the threat has been negated. Our community is secure at this time,” he said. “This strikes home particularly hard for me as a retired military member. Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie. You just don’t expect this to happen at home.”
Two officers “negated the threat” and are in the hospital but expected to recover, according to the sheriff, who indicated that one of his officers took down the suspect.
“Active shooter is deceased,” the U.S. Navy also confirmed on Twitter. “One additional fatality has been confirmed. Unknown number of injured people being transferred to local hospitals. NAS Pensacola is on lockdown.” In a follow-up tweet, the Navy wrote, “A second victim has been confirmed deceased.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Gunman May Have Hosted a Dinner Party to Watch Mass Shooting Videos the Night Before
The Associated Press is reporting that Pensacola mass shooter Mohammed Alshamrani hosted a dinner party the night before the fatal attack “to watch videos of mass shootings.”
According to ABC 30, which printed the AP report, the claim comes from an unnamed U.S. official. The official asked for anonymity but was “briefed by federal investigators,” the article claims. It also claims, citing the same official, that one Saudi student “was recording outside the building while the shooting took place” and 10 Saudi students are being held at the base while “several others are still unaccounted for.”
The Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, a military base sometimes called the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.”
The gunman has been identified by Florida’s governor as a Saudi national, however. “He was in the aviation pipeline. He was training in aviation,” the base commander said in a news conference.
A group that monitors Jihadist activity online says it has unearthed a manifesto on Twitter that may belong to the shooter; in it, he rants about America, calling it a nation of evil, and quotes Osama bin Laden, according to the organization. You can read more about that here.
Asia Intel, a group that monitors Jihadist activity, has posted screenshots of a now-suspended Twitter page that it says may have belonged to the gunman; this is not confirmed, but the top tweet matches that described by ABC and AFP, which also reported, through a source, that the FBI is investigating social media posts as well as the suspect’s affiliations, including whether he had any accomplices. The group says the Twitter page in question quoted bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
Heavy has confirmed that Twitter suspended the account that may be the shooter’s; for hours people have been directing vitriol toward the page on Twitter, many of them in Arabic. “I’m sorry American people. This terrorist does not represent us,” wrote one person who responded. Rita Katz, director of the Site Intel Group, which monitors jihadist activity, wrote that the tweet that may be from Pensacola attacker Alshamrani “suggests terrorist motive. Does not claim allegiance to any group, but echos Bin Laden: ‘The security is a shared destiny…You will not be safe until we live it as reality in [Palestine], and American troops get out of our land.'”
The New York Times reported that six other Saudi nationals “were detained for questioning near the scene of the shooting, including three who were seen filming the entire incident.” It wasn’t clear whether they, too, were students or knew Alshamrani, according to The Times.
The base commander confirmed at a news conference that NAS Pensacola hosts international students for flight training.
Four people are deceased (including the suspect), and more were wounded when the shooting broke out on December 6, 2019, according to the sheriff. Two deputies were shot, one in the arm and one in the leg, but they are expected to survive, officials told the media. The first victim was named as Joshua Kaleb Watson, whose brother says he died a hero. You can read more about Watson here.
The shooter fired randomly, but was thwarted from killing more people when someone barricaded a door, according to ABC7.
It was the second mass shooting at a military installation in the United States in one week. An active shooter named Gabriel Romero killed two people at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Romero was a petty officer in the United States Navy.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said 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
DeSantis said there are “a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Forece, and then to be training on our soil and then to do this.” He said authorities are investigating to try to answer all of those questions.
According to its website, NAS Pensacola, situated in Escambia County, “employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. This includes major tenant commands: Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Technical Training Center, Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 and 23, the Blue Angels, and the headquarters for Naval Education Training Command, a command which combines direction and control of all Navy education and training.”
The motive for the mass shooting is not yet clear. It’s also not clear where on the base the shooting occurred.
“#BREAKING: We are aware of reports of a possible active shooter at Naval Air Station,” the U.S. Navy wrote on its Twitter page.
CNN called a dispatcher at the Naval Air Station and was told: “We have an active situation right now.” There was a massive law enforcement response. “I can confirm there is an active shooter on NAS Pensacola and it’s going on right now,” said Amber Southard, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman, to CNN.
There may be a number of casualties, according to WEAR-TV. NorthEscambia.com reported that there was a a World War II Remembrance ceremony planned for 10 a.m. at the National Naval Aviation Museum, although there’s no indication it’s related. The Tate High School Vocal Jazz and Wind Ensemble was supposed to perform but wasn’t on the base yet when the mass shooting broke out, according to the news site.
You can listen to early scanner audio here. It starts around 19 minutes in to the audio file. At one point, an officer says a Naval officer was shot multiple times and another person was shot in the leg.
“We have multiple patients at the front gate,” an officer said.
“Both gates of NASP are currently secured due to reports of an active shooter. More information will be provided as it becomes available,” NAS Pensacola wrote on its Facebook page. “The base is closed for the remainder of the day. Only essential personnel will be allowed onto the base.”
The shooter is “confirmed dead,” the Escambia County Sheriff wrote on its Facebook page on December 6, 2019. “The ECSO can confirm there is no longer an active shooter on NAS Pensacola.” The conditions of those wounded were not released.
You can listen to the Escambia County dispatch here.
The reports of a Pensacola active shooter come after an active shooter wounded three people, killing two of them, at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii. They also come after a wild police chase of a stolen UPS truck in the Miami area left four people dead, including the UPS truck driver, who was taken hostage, and an innocent bystander.
This post is being updated as more information is learned about the active shooter situation.
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