- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - Family members of slain Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Aaron Mayo said Wednesday he died a hero - but they want to know why.

Mayo, 24, was shot Monday at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., when he dove in front of another petty officer to protect her from a civilian who had seized her gun, the Navy said.

Mayo’s parents Sharon Blair and Decondi Mayo said their son’s actions reflected his strong, caring, nature.

“He protected people. He was a protector,” Blair told reporters at her home in Hagerstown, 70 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., where Mayo spent his adolescence.

Capt. Robert Clark, the naval station’s commanding officer, told a Norfolk news conference that “Mayo’s actions were nothing less than heroic.”

But Mayo’s older brother Timothy Borum Jr., 29, said he wants to know how it could have happened on the Navy’s largest base.

“I always felt that he was safe on a military base, always felt that he’d be protected,” Borum said.

“It shouldn’t have been that simple for something like this to happen like that,” he said.

Blair, wearing a blue-and-yellow “U.S. Navy Mom” t-shirt her son gave her in July, said she moved her four children from the Washington area in 1998 to raise them in a safer environment. They initially lived in public housing but moved in 2005 into their own, single-family home in the city’s West End.

Like his single mother, a geriatric nursing assistant, Mayo worked hard to reach his goals, his high-school teachers said.

Mayo was an above-average student and Washington County wrestling champion who enlisted four months after graduating from Williamsport High School in 2007 because the Navy offered educational opportunities, said Randy Longnecker, the school guidance counselor.

“He pulled himself up by his bootstraps,” Longnecker said.

He recalled Mayo’s infectious grin: “When he smiled, he really lit up a room.”

Williamsport wrestling coach Mike Rechtorovic said Mayo stayed in touch after graduation.

“I just saw him this past summer and he was so proud. He was talking about how he got to see Spain and the places the Navy had taken him,” he said.

On the night he died, Mayo was serving as chief of the guard, a security role, the Navy said.

His mother said Mayo had wanted to be a policeman from a young age.

___

Associated Press writer Brock Vergakis contributed to this report from Norfolk, Va

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