Florida Shooting Updates: 3 Sailors Who Were Killed Are Identified

Florida Shooting Updates: 3 Sailors Who Were Killed Are Identified

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Credit…Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Three sailors were killed in the attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida on Friday. The authorities identified them late Saturday night as:

  • Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, of Coffee, Ala.

  • Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Fla.

  • Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Ga.

“The sorrow from the tragic event on N.A.S. Pensacola will have a lasting impact on our installation and community,” said Capt. Timothy F. Kinsella Jr., the commanding officer of the base. “We feel the loss profoundly and grieve with the family and friends of the deceased.”

Captain Kinsella said the sailors who were killed had showed heroism and bravery by running toward the danger to save lives, and had prevented the toll from being far worse.

Eight others were injured in the attack, including two deputies responding to the scene.

Federal law enforcement officials still have not publicly released information about the investigation or the gunman. But some clues have emerged about what the gunman, who had been training on the base, was doing in the days and weeks before the shooting.

The night before the attack, the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who had been briefed on the investigation.

Days earlier, the gunman and three other Saudi military trainees were in New York City, visiting several museums and Rockefeller Center. Investigators have not said whether the trip was just a sightseeing tour or whether there were other motives.

Several other Saudis on the Pensacola base were detained for questioning after the shooting. One of them, who had been at the scene of the shooting with two others, had recorded the chaotic scene in front of the classroom building where the shooting took place.

After the attack, President Trump tried to tamp down any suggestion that the Saudi government needed to be held to account. Mr. Trump announced on Twitter that he had received a condolence call from King Salman of Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, he told reporters that “they are devastated in Saudi Arabia,” noting that “the king will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones.” Mr. Trump did not use the word “terrorism.”

What was missing was any assurance that the Saudis would aid in the investigation, help identify the suspect’s motives, or answer the many questions about the vetting process for a coveted slot at one of the United States’ premier schools for training allied officers. Or, more broadly, why the United States continues to train members of the Saudi military, which has been accused of repeated human rights abuses in Yemen.

“The attack is a disaster for an already deeply strained relationship,” Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former C.I.A. officer who has dealt with generations of Saudi leaders, said on Saturday. It “focuses attention on Americans training Saudi Air Force officers who are engaged in numerous bombings of innocents in Yemen, which is the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world,” Mr. Riedel said, noting that the Trump administration had been fighting efforts in Congress to end American support for that war.

For the White House, the calculus is simple: Saudi Arabia is critical to the world’s oil supplies — though no longer to the United States’ — and it is the only Gulf power willing and able to counter Iran. Former members of the Trump administration say that as a result, the administration has been dismissive of any critiques that could weaken ties between Washington and Riyadh.

[Read more about the attack’s effect on U.S.-Saudi relations.]

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said on “Fox News Sunday” that the Pentagon would be reviewing screening procedures for foreign nationals on American military bases but would maintain the training programs.

“The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us,” he said. “We have something that our potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, don’t have.”

Mr. Esper also confirmed that several “friends” of the Saudi gunman were detained as part of the military’s investigation, and that of those detained, “some one or two were filming” the shooting.

”I’m not trying to pass a judgment on this,” Mr. Esper said, adding that the investigation is continuing. “Today, people pull out their phones and film everything and anything that happens.”

In the wake of two attacks — the shooting in Pensacola on Friday, and another on Wednesday in which a sailor in Hawaii killed two shipyard workers at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard — military officials are again confronting just how vexing and persistent such incidents have become.

The base shootings reflect both the complications of banning private weapons from places where military personnel train to fight the nation’s wars and the difficulties of monitoring a population whose members are often dealing with extraordinary levels of stress.

To ensure that no unauthorized weapon ends up on a base, military installations would need to be outfitted with T.S.A.-style screening — a level of security and added expense that military officials are unlikely to embrace.

[Read more about the attacks on military bases.]


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