Two U.S. Navy bases have been hit by deadly active shooter incidents in three days, with an assailant opening fire this morning in a classroom at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.
The suspect was identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Saudi Air Force member who was undergoing training in the U.S. from August 2017 until August 2020. Commanding officer Capt. Timothy Kinsella later confirmed that the shooter was training at the base “in the aviation pipeline,” but he did not elaborate on the shooter’s potential status with the Saudi military. About 1,200 foreign students currently train at the base in collaboration with allies, he said.
The attack follows Wednesday’s shooting at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The sailor who shot three civilian Defense Department employees at a Pearl Harbor dry dock, killing two, was assigned to armed duty guarding the USS Columbia despite reportedly being ordered to attend anger management courses.
Gabriel Romero, 22, was armed with an M4 rifle, with which he shot his victims, and an M9 pistol, with which he shot himself on Wednesday afternoon, sending the base into lockdown.
Hawaii News Now reported that Romero had faced a captain’s mast disciplinary proceeding for an unknown violation. It was not known if the victims were specifically targeted, nor the motive for the attack.
One victim has been identified: Vincent Kapoi Jr., 30, of Waianae, who was killed in the shooting. The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers said the victims were union members and “hard-working public servants who go to work each day to serve the taxpayers and our military forces.”
This morning, Pensacola went on lockdown after an active shooter was reported just before 7 a.m. local time.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said three people were killed by the shooter, who was killed by first responders. The first two deputies to respond were wounded; one was shot in the arm and another in the knee, and both are expected to recover.
The two deputies are among eight people wounded by the shooter. Morgan said the killer used a handgun. Weapons are not allowed on the base.
“The base is still in lockdown as first responders secure the scene. Base security and the Naval
Criminal Investigative Service are currently investigating. The names of the victims will not be
released until the next of kin have been notified,” NAS Pensacola posted on Facebook. “More information will be released as it becomes available.”
The base was to remain closed for the day with only essential personnel allowed in the gates. The FBI is leading the investigation.
Officials said the attack was confined to two floors in Building 663. Asked if a terrorism motive was suspected, Kinsella replied, “I don’t even want to speculate on that.”
“Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie,” said Sheriff Morgan.
Kinsella later said he was “devastated” by the “surreal” attack but was proud of the heroism in stopping the shooter. “The most important thing going forward will be supporting our families,” he said.
Both incidents highlight the threat posed by insiders with access to sensitive locations.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) plays an integral role in supporting public and private sector efforts to prevent and mitigate a wide range of risks, including those posed by insiders,” said CISA Assistant Director Brian Harrell at the recent Homeland Security Week conference in Washington. “Insider threats are dynamic and continuously evolving. Current or former employees, contractors, and other trusted insiders can cause significant damage. These trusted insiders will take advantage of his or her access to do harm to the organization.”
“A successful insider threat program will recognize that there are no profiles about what an insider threat looks like; rather, insider threats evolve over time and share a number of common and overlapping detectable and observable behaviors,” Harrell continued. “Behavior is what matters most, not the motivation, whether it is political, religious, ideology, or revenge.”
This story was updated at 8 p.m. EST