Petty officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell has been identified as a suspect in the stabbing at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads Portsmouth annex. (WVEC)
PORTSMOUTH, VA. — The Navy conducted a massive manhunt Friday for a sailor that officials said stabbed another service member multiple times near one of its naval hospitals.
The Navy said the stabbing occurred in the morning outside the Navy Exchange at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Portsmouth Annex, during an argument between two sailors. The installation is home to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and sits near a residential area on the Elizabeth River, where thousands of people had gathered across the river in downtown Norfolk to watch a parade of ships as part of the annual Harborfest festival.
The Navy identified the suspect as 26-year-old Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell. Security forces were going door to door at the locked-down facility in search of the man, who was wearing a white T-shirt and tan cargo shorts. The Navy said the person who was stabbed was also a sailor and was taken to the naval hospital with critical injuries after being stabbed in the chest and neck.
Capt. Michael "Jake" Johansson, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, said the two men knew each other, although he wasn't sure exactly what their relationship was before the altercation. The victim hasn't been identified. Johansson said officials haven't determined motive.
Traffic onto the base was still not permitted early Friday afternoon, although the Navy is letting those who were in their vehicles at the time the installation went on lockdown to exit after being searched. The Navy says it's turning away people with routine medical visits or other business.
The manhunt comes a day after Naval Medical Center Portsmouth practiced an active shooter drill as part of routine training.
"It was fortuitous in that pretty much everybody that was at the exercise yesterday, by face showed up today, so it was nice to have that collaboration," Johansson said about the military and civilian responders.
The stabbing follows incidents earlier this year that prompted the Navy to place bases on lockdown in the Hampton Roads area.
In March, a civilian truck driver with a criminal record shot and killed Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo aboard the USS Mahan, a destroyer. The base, the largest naval base in the world, was briefly put on lockdown.
Trucker Jeffrey Tyrone Savage was later shot and killed by Navy personnel in a shootout aboard the ship.
As a result of that incident, more stringent rules were put in place that has denied access to bases on the East Coast to transportation workers because of their criminal histories.
In April, a sailor was found dead in his barracks at the Portsmouth Annex.
The grounds to the Portsmouth base were temporarily locked down as a precaution.
Associated Press writer Steve Szkotak contributed to this report from Richmond.