A Saudi Arabian military student used a handgun to open fire on a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida early Friday, killing three and injuring eight more before he died in a shoot out with sheriff’s officers, according to Navy and local law enforcement officials.
The Navy has not identified the shooter but NAS Pensacola base commander Capt. Timothy Kinsella said during an afternoon news conference that he was a student in the Navy aviation pipeline.
“He was training in aviation,” Kinsella said.
Pentagon officials later confirmed to the Washington Post and other outlets that the slain gunman was a junior Saudi officer, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.
He was among a couple hundred international students that train at the base, which is the primary initial training stop for all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard officers seeking to become aviators or flight officers, plus international students.
During a Friday night press conference, FBI Jacksonville Field Office Special Agent In Charge Rachel Rojas declined to confirm the suspect’s name or a motive. She described the carnage as a “large crime scene.”
“This is still very much an active and ongoing investigation,” Rojas said.
FBI is leading the probe assisted by base security and agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan confirmed during a separate press conference earlier Friday that the wounded include two officers, one shot in the knee and the other in the arm.
The law enforcement officer shot in the arm killed the shooter, Morgan said. The other was in surgery Friday and both were expected to recover.
Morgan said the incident was confined to the building and the classroom.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags across the state of Florida to be flown at half-staff and remain so until sunset Dec. 13 in honor and remembrance of the victims.
Saying he had spoken to President Donald J. Trump earlier, DeSantis announced during the afternoon news conference that the "government of Saudi Arabia is going to owe a debt here to the victims.”
Trump vowed that U.S. military investigators would “get to the bottom of” the mass shooting.
At a business event in the White House Friday afternoon, Trump said he received a call from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz earlier in the day condemning the action.
“The king and the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and he said that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people, who love the American people,” Trump said.
“It’s a horrible thing that took place.”
After offering his condolences to the injured, Trump promised that the White House will work closely with defense officials on a response to the attack.
Saudi officials did not answer questions about the shooting submitted to the embassy by Navy Times in writing Friday morning.
But Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Riyadh’s deputy defense minister who trained as a fighter pilot at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, said in a Friday tweet that the “tragic event is strongly condemned by everyone in Saudi Arabia.”
“A large number of Saudi graduates of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola moved on to serve with their U.S counterparts in battlefronts around the world, helping to safeguard the regional and global security,” he added.
It remains unclear how a Saudi student was able to obtain a firearm and Kinsella said that even sailors assigned to the air station “cannot bring your weapon on base.”
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper issued a statement offering condolences to families of the victim’s in Friday’s attack as well as a shooting spree that left three people dead on Wednesday at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. The Navy identified the shooter in that incident as well as two civilian victims on Friday.
His third victim is recovering in a Honolulu hospital.
“The Department of Defense continues to monitor the situation in Pensacola and gather all the facts of each attack,” Esper said. "I’ve spoken with Governor DeSantis, the Secretary of the Navy, and Deputy Secretary Norquist and am considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and their families. I’m grateful for the heroism of the first responders and law enforcement who helped confront both situations and kept further loss of life from occurring.
"To all our sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines, and civilian personnel, we stand ready to assist and make resources available to deal with the grief in the aftermath of these tragedies as well as life’s challenges in general.”
The names of the victims will not be released until the next of kin have been notified, officials added.
The Coast Guard 8th District’s spokesman John D. Edwards told Navy Times that all Coast Guard personnel are accounted for and they reported no injuries.
Marine officials told Marine Corps Times that all of their students and instructors also reported no injuries in the wake of the shooting.
Hours after the Pensacola mass shooting, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida received a bomb threat and evacuated the immediate area.
An all-clear was soon sounded after security forces, explosive ordnance disposal specialists and the fire department found there was no credible threat.
Meanwhile, the man authorities say drove a truck through the gate at Virginia’s Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story before striking a Navy police cruiser and killing a sailor inside on Saturday also was arraigned Friday.
Nathaniel Lee Campbell, 38, of Shenandoah, Virginia, is in the custody of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia Beach Police Department said in a news release.
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Oscar J. Temores was responding to a report of a gate runner around 7:35 p.m. Saturday when his police cruiser was struck head on by a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by Campbell at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Leyte Street, the Navy and police said.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly said in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times that the entire Navy and Marine Corps are "struck and deeply saddened by the attacks within our own naval family over the past several days, at Little Creek, Virginia last week, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Wednesday, and today in Pensacola, Florida.
"These acts are crimes against all of us. Our prayers are with the families of the fallen and with the wounded. It is our solemn duty to find the causes of such tragic loss and ceaselessly work together to prevent them. Let us make concerted efforts to care for the families of those lost, and those wounded, visibly and not. Let us shepherd them through these first moments of despair, and make them, and our greater Naval family, whole and strong. "
It’s been what Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday called late Friday “a devastating week for our Navy family.”
“When tragedy hits, as it did today, and Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, it is felt by all,” said Gilday in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times. "Those who grieve do not do so alone. We grieve together alongside you. We serve together as one team, as one Fleet, as part of one Joint Force.
"As shipmates — uniform and civilian, active and reserve — we must come together to be the strength and support for those who need us now. No one should feel alone. There are many resources available for us all — including counselors, chaplains and mental health professionals.
"We must look out for each other and take care of one another. That extra effort to extend a hand or lend an ear to those who need help should never be underestimated. It will make a difference.”
Later on Friday evening, Naval Air Base Pensacola officials shuttered the installation for the weekend to all hands except mission essential personnel.
While families who live on base will be able to enter the gates, the National Naval Aviation Museum and Barrancas National Cemetery are closed until further notice.
“Today was a sad day for Naval Air Station Pensacola and the local community with the events that unfolded on board the installation,” said commanding officer Kinsella. “We appreciate the support that we have received from across the country to include local, state and federal agencies. The quick actions by our naval security forces and local law enforcement prevented the situation from potentially being worse than it was.
"NAS Pensacola stands strong with our Navy family and our Pensacola community. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families.”
Navy leaders have opened an Emergency Family Assistance Center at the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites (Building 3249) until 9 p.m. Friday evening.
It will move to the Fleet and Family Service Center at 8 a.m. Saturday to provide counseling to witnesses, friends, relatives and base residents.
For more information, call 850-452-5000.
If you, a friend or a loved one is in crisis, please connect with a trained counselor now. Confidential, immediate help is available 24/7 at no cost to active duty, Guard and reserve members, their families and friends. Contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255. Your life matters.
This is a breaking story. We will continue to update it only with official, corroborated sources.
Military Times Managing Editor Howard Altman, Marine Corps Times Editor Andrea Scott, Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane III and Air Force Times Senior Reporter Stephen Losey contributed to this article.
Courtney Mabeus is a senior writer at Navy Times. Mabeus previously covered the military for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier.