Recent Naval Academy graduate Joshua Kaleb Watson, a pilot in training, was mortally wounded in a shooting rampage at Naval Air Station Pensacola but still managed to give first responders vital information that helped them take down the gunman, his family said Saturday.
The names of the three victims allegedly killed by Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, have not yet been officially released, but Watson's family identified him as one of them in Facebook postings and in accounts to the Pensacola News Journal.
The 23-year-old Watson "saved countless lives" by his selfless actions, his brother, Adam Watson, wrote on Facebook.
"After being shot multiple times" in a classroom building on the base early Friday, "he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable," Adam Watson said.
The shooter was killed in an exchange of gunfire with Escambia County Sheriff's Office deputies, officials said. Watson died of his wounds at Baptist Hospital. Seven others wounded in the shootings were also taken to nearby medical centers.
Watson, who went by the name Kaleb, was badly wounded, but "he made his way out to flag down first responders and gave an accurate description of the shooter," his father, Benjamin Watson, told the Pensacola News Journal. "He died serving his country."
Watson, of Enterprise, Alabama, had dreamed of becoming a Navy pilot and had reported to Pensacola to begin flight training in November, his father said.
Following the shootings, "I was texted by one of the officers who said Kaleb had saved lives," Benjamin Watson said.
At a news conference Friday, local and federal authorities said they had yet to establish a motive for the attack and declined to describe the shootings as an act of terrorism.
However, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, said on Twitter that "I'm extremely concerned by the reports that this shooter was a foreign national training on a U.S. military base in Florida. Whether this individual was motivated by radical Islam or was simply mentally unstable, this was an act of terrorism."
Scott called for a review of vetting procedures for foreign nationals who train with the U.S. military. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have also said security procedures at bases would be reviewed to prevent future attacks.
Capt. Timothy Kinsella, the Pensacola base commander, said there were about 200 foreign nationals currently training at the base.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said the gunman used a handgun, reportedly a Glock 9mm, but it was not immediately clear how he obtained it or brought it onto the base. Kinsella said personal weapons are not authorized on the base.
Although terrorism has not been officially established as a motive for the shootings, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist postings and activity, cited a Twitter account with a name matching Alshamrani's that included anti-American diatribes.
"I'm not against you for just being American," the posts said, according to SITE. "I don't hate you because your freedoms, I hate you because every day you supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.