US Official: Pensacola Shooting Suspect Was Saudi Air Force Officer

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Police vehicles block the entrance to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 6, 2019. (Tony Giberson/Pensacola News Journal via AP)
Police vehicles block the entrance to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 6, 2019. (Tony Giberson/Pensacola News Journal via AP)

WASHINGTON -- The Florida naval station shooting suspect was an aviation officer in the Saudi Air Force, U.S. officials said Friday, as the FBI and other authorities began investigating the incident to determine if it was terrorism-related.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the suspect was a second lieutenant attending the aviation school at the base. Military from around the globe attend Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training.

The shooter opened fire in a classroom building on Friday morning. The attack left four people dead, including the assailant, and multiple people wounded.

There was no immediate report on the shooting carried by Saudi state media. The kingdom has long relied on the U.S. to train its military.

The shooting was the second at a U.S. Navy base this week.

Eleven people were shot all together, including two sheriff's deputies who were the first to respond, one of whom killed the shooter, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said. One of the deputies was shot in the arm and the other in the knee, and both are expected to recover, he said.

Related: 3 Dead, 7 Injured After Shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola; Shooter Killed

The base remains closed until further notice and those still there will be evacuated when authorities decide it is safe to do so, Kinsella said.

Lucy Samford, 31, said her husband, a Navy reservist and civilian worker on the base, was about 500 yards from where the shooting happened. She said she got a call from him a little after 7 a.m. and "one of the first things out of his mouth was, 'I love you. Tell the kids I love them. I just want you to know there's an active shooter on base.'"

Her husband, whom she declined to identify, later told her he was OK.

NAS Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website. One of the Navy's most historic and storied bases, it sprawls along the waterfront southwest of downtown Pensacola and dominates the economy of the surrounding area.

Part of the Pensacola base resembles a college campus, with buildings where 60,000 members of the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard receive training each year in multiple fields of aviation.

The base is home is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, and includes the National Naval Aviation Museum, a popular regional tourist attraction.

The shooting is the second at a U.S. naval base this week. A sailor whose submarine was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, opened fire on three civilian employees Wednesday, killing two before taking his own life.

Alex McGinley, a tattoo artist who works near the Pensacola base, said he was alerted to the shooting by one of his clients, most of whom are military personnel. He said none of his clients was among those shot.

"What kind of things go through a person's mind to a level that makes them do something like that?" McGinley asked.

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Read more: Sailor Who Killed 2 at Pearl Harbor Was Unhappy with Commanders

 

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