Saudi airman in U.S. for training suspected in deadly shooting at
Florida naval base
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[December 07, 2019]
By Brad Brooks
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - A Saudi Air
Force second lieutenant killed four people and wounded eight others on
Friday in an unexplained shooting rampage at a U.S. Navy base in Florida
where he was training, U.S. officials told Reuters.
Sheriff's deputies responding to the early-morning incident shot and
killed the gunman, who was armed with a handgun at the U.S. Naval
Station in Pensacola, Navy and local law enforcement officials said.
The shooting, which played out over two floors in a classroom building
at the base, marked the second deadly shooting at a U.S. military
installation this week, following a similar incident at the joint Air
Force and Naval base at Pearl Harbor on Wednesday.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the suspect was attending training at
the base as part of long-standing Navy program involving members of the
"The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these
victims. They are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of
their individuals," DeSantis said at a news conference.
U.S President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia's King Salman called him to
offer condolences and sympathy to the victims.
"The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric
actions of the shooter," Trump wrote on Twitter.
Salman condemned the shooting in a written statement and said his
government's security services were working with U.S. agencies to
uncover the cause.
"The perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi
people, who count the American people as friends and allies," Salman
FBI investigators, who were leading a probe into the shooting, declined
to identify the gunman and said at an evening news conference they had
not established a motive for the attack.
SHERIFF'S DEPUTIES INJURED
But U.S. officials familiar with the case told Reuters on condition of
anonymity that the suspect had been identified as
Saudi Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.
"There are many reports circulating but the FBI deals only in facts. As
soon as we can we will share more," Rachel Rojas, special agent in
charge of the FBI's Jacksonville office, told a news conference.
In addition to the two people slain, two sheriff's deputies were injured
in the attack, one shot in the arm, the other in the knee, but both were
expected to survive, officials said at an earlier news conference.
Eight people were taken to Baptist Hospital for treatment, hospital
spokeswoman Kathy Bowers said.
The first reports of an "active shooter" on the base reached the
Escambia County sheriff's office at about 6:51 a.m. and a few minutes
later a sheriff's deputy fatally shot the suspect in a classroom on the
base, Sheriff David Morgan said.
[to top of second column]
Traffic on and off base is restricted after a member of the Saudi
Air Force visiting the United States for military training was the
suspect in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, in Pensacola,
Florida, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger
In recent weeks, 18 naval aviators and two aircrew members from the
Royal Saudi Naval Forces were training with the U.S. Navy at
Pensacola, according to the Navy.
The group came under a Navy program that offers training to U.S.
allies. Some 200 foreign students are in the program, said Captain
Timothy Kinsella, the commander of the base.
A person familiar with the program said Saudi Air Force officers
selected for military training in the United States are intensely
vetted by both countries.
The Saudi personnel are "hand-picked" by their military and often
come from elite families, the person said, speaking on condition of
anonymity because they did not have permission to speak to a
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he wanted to see whether U.S.
vetting of these foreign military personnel was adequate.
"I want to make sure that we're doing our due diligence to
understand: What are our procedures? Is it sufficient?" Esper told
reporters. "Are we also screening persons coming to make sure they
have their life in order, their mental health is adequate."
Senator Rick Scott of Florida called for a full review of U.S.
military programs training foreign nationals on U.S. soil.
"We shouldn't be providing military training to people who wish to
harm us," Scott wrote on Twitter.
The Pensacola base, near Florida's border with Alabama, is a major
training site for the Navy and employs about 16,000 military and
7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website.
Military personnel are normally restricted from carrying weapons on
U.S. bases unless they are part of their daily duties. Nonetheless
bases have seen deadly mass shootings before, including one in Ford
Hood, Texas, in 2009 that left 13 dead and one at the Washington
Navy Yard in 2013 that killed 12.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani in New
York, Brendan O'Brien in Chicago, Idrees Ali, Jonathan Landay and
Mark Hosenball in Washington, Phil Stewart in Simi Valley,
California and Dan Whitcomb in Culver City, California; Writing by
Andrew Hay and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Bill Tarrant
& Shri Navaratnam)
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