The Pensacola Naval Air Station main gate following a shooting on December 06, 2019, in Pensacola, Florida.
Josh Brasted | Getty Images
The Saudi Air Force member suspected of killing three people and wounding several others at a shooting Friday at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida, attended a dinner prior to the rampage at which mass shooting videos were shown, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
The official said it’s unclear what that means.
The gunman, who was killed in the incident by responding sheriff’s deputies in the incident, was identified by several law enforcement sources as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He was at Naval Air Station Pensacola as part of a training program.
In other news about the investigation into the shooting, a number of Saudi training students were led away by authorities after the incident, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Officials have not publicly confirmed the shooter’s name or discussed a possible motive.
“We are not prepared at this hour to confirm what may have motivated the shooter to commit this horrific act today,” said Rachel L. Rojas, FBI special agent in charge of the Jacksonville division, at a news conference Friday night.
The shooting happened at around 6:50 a.m. in a two-floor classroom building at the naval base, which is on the Florida Panhandle about 13 miles from the Alabama border.
Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the suspect had been scheduled to complete a three-year U.S. Air Force Foreign Military Sales training program, funded by Saudi Arabia, in August.
Foreign students from ally and “partner” nations of the U.S. have been coming to train at the base since at least World War II, Base commander Capt. Timothy Kinsella said Friday.
“There have always been international students training here because it’s a good place to train. It’s good-quality training,” he said.
Eastburn said 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries, including 852 Saudis, are in the U.S. for Department of Defense security cooperation-related training. According to a Pentagon policy, foreign nationals who want to participate in the program are vetted for terrorist activity, drug trafficking, corruption, and criminal conduct.
Three people were killed in the shooting and eight others, including two Escambia County sheriff’s deputies, were injured after an exchange with the shooter, who was armed with a handgun. Authorities said both deputies are expected to survive.
One of the victims killed is being remembered by his brother for saving the lives of others despite being shot multiple times.
In a gut-wrenching Facebook post, Adam Watson confirmed that Joshua Kaleb Watson was among those killed and said that his brother told first responders where the shooter was located inside the base.
“Today has been the worst day of my life,” Adam Watson wrote. “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.”
Adam Watson said his brother “died a hero.”
“We are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled,” the Facebook post read.
Friday’s shooting is the second incident this week at a U.S. Navy facility. On Wednesday, a U.S. sailor shot and killed two civilian Defense Department employees and wounded a third at the Pearl Harbor Shipyard in Hawaii before killing himself.