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Pensacola Naval Base Shooting: The FBI Is Investigating With "Presumption" Of Terrorism

Three people were killed and at least eight injured in Friday's attack.

Last updated on December 8, 2019, at 1:39 p.m. ET

Posted on December 8, 2019, at 10:44 a.m. ET

Josh Brasted / Getty Images

The FBI is continuing to investigate the Saudi Air Force trainee who it says killed three people at the Naval Air Base Pensacola in Florida, including whether he acted alone or as part of a network in planning the attack that is now presumed to be terrorism.

During a press conference Sunday, FBI agents announced that while they are "working with [that] presumption" of terrorism, criminal investigation teams continue to chase other potential leads.

"We are, as we do with most active-shooter investigations, we work with a presumption that this was an act of terrorism," said special agent in charge Rachel Rojas, adding that the Saudi Arabian government has "pledged to fully cooperate" in the investigation.

The shooter, identified as Mohammed Alshamrani, was killed by a sheriff's deputy responding to the scene Friday. Alshamrani began shooting with a handgun inside a training facility shortly before the Escambia County Sheriff's Office received a call at 6:51 a.m. local time. Two deputies from the Sheriff's Office were among the eight people injured.

Rojas confirmed that Alshamrani purchased his gun, a Glock 45 9 mm pistol, legally. And while she did not provide any further details about how he obtained it, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, nonimmigrant residents can purchase firearms by obtaining a valid hunting license.

FBI

Mohammed Alshamrani

Alshamrani, 21, was a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, and he was at the Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola as a student naval flight officer.

In the week before the shooting, he hosted a dinner party at which he and three other students watched videos of mass shootings, US officials told the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. The official also told the AP that one of the three students recorded video from outside the building where the shooting took place, while two other Saudi students watched from a car.

The Saudi students said they just happened to be there at the time shooting broke out, a person briefed on the investigation told the New York Times. At least six other Saudi students assigned to the base were detained for questioning, the Times reported.

Rojas would not comment Sunday if other Saudi students at the base were involved in the attack. No one has been arrested, she said.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he could not speculate on whether Alshamrani was targeting Americans or whether he had any assistance in the attack, though Esper said he was told that a Saudi student had been filming. Esper also told Fox News Sunday that the Pentagon would begin a review of how foreign nationals are vetted before they take part in US military training programs.

Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense advised military bases to review their screening procedures after shooting on military base.

The FBI said it interviewed a bystander who had taken video, which it was analyzing along with base surveillance video.

The victims were all students, and on Saturday, authorities identified them as Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old from Enterprise, Alabama; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, from St. Petersburg, Florida; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, a 21-year-old from Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Watson's family said he "died a hero" after alerting first responders to the location of the shooter, despite having been shot himself.

Alshamrani didn't have ties to international terrorist groups, according to an initial assessment by US intelligence and counterterrorism officials cited by the New York Times.

Authorities are also investigating social media accounts that could be linked to the shooter.

Rojas added Sunday that "many, many resources" across the country have been allocated to the investigation. The FBI has dedicated 80 special agents and nearly 100 staff members from both federal and local field offices.

"Our main goal is to confirm if he acted alone or if he’s part of a larger network," Rojas stated.

Josh Brasted / Getty Images

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he had received a call from the Saudi king expressing disbelief and sadness about the shooting.

"The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter," Trump wrote, "and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people."

The incident was the second shooting at a naval base just this week, following a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii, where two Defense Department employees were killed and a third injured.


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