- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2019

A Saudi Arabian aviation student killed three people and wounded at least eight others at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, officials said, and the assailant was later shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies who responded to the scene.

Officials identified the gunman as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force, and federal authorities are now probing whether the incident was terrorism-related. The FBI reportedly has taken the lead in the investigation, and U.S. law enforcement officials reportedly are already working with the Saudi government to put together background information on the shooter and determine a possible motive.

The shooting inside a classroom building on the sprawling Florida base comes just two days after an attack at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. The two deadly incidents surely will reignite questions about security on U.S. military facilities.

But the more immediate questions centered on Alshamrani, who reportedly used a handgun to carry out his attack.

Florida Gov. Rob DeSantis, a Republian, said Friday that the government in Riyadh owes a “debt” to the U.S. and specifically to the families of the victims.

“Obviously, the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I think they’re going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.”

President Trump said Friday he’s been fully briefed on the shooting. The president also said he talked to Saudi leaders who expressed their condolences for the attack.

“King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida,” Mr. Trump said in a post on Twitter. “The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”

Officials at the Pensacola base, which is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and employs more than 23,000 military and civilian personnel, said the facility remained on lockdown Friday afternoon. Only those who live on the base are allowed to re-enter the facility, officials said.

Inside the classroom where the shooting took place, first responders encountered a gruesome scene.

“Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told reporters during a media briefing Friday morning.

The gunman shot at least 11 people, officials said, killing three. A sheriff’s deputy then shot and killed the assailant.

Two deputies who responded to the scene were wounded, with one being shot in the arm and the other shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover, officials said.

Vice President Mike Pence praised the first responders who took down the gunman.

“Saddened to hear of the horrible shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola & continuing to monitor the situation,” the vice president said in a post on Twitter. “Praying for the victims & their families & we commend the first responders for their swift action in taking down the shooter & getting those on base to safety.”

Navy officials are not yet releasing the names of those killed or wounded.

“The names of the victims will not be released until the next of kin have been notified,” reads a post on the base’s official Twitter account.

It’s unclear what type of weapon the shooter used. Officials are expected to again brief the press Friday afternoon.

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