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Four people are dead, including the gunman, after a shooting Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola, authorities said. Several other people were injured, including two sheriff’s deputies who engaged the shooter.
The suspect was a member of the Saudi Air Force and an aviation student at the base, officials confirmed at a press conference Friday. He was identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.
The Pentagon told CBS News that the shooter had been in the country since August 2017 pursuant to a U.S. Air Force Foreign Military Sales training case funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and that he was scheduled to stay until August 2020. He was enrolled in English, basic aviation, and initial pilot training at the station, the Pentagon added.
Investigators are trying to determine how a foreign national obtained a handgun, which is prohibited by law, and carried it onto the base.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, someone matching the shooter’s identity had an online footprint, including a Twitter post that criticized America’s support for Israel:
Base commander Captain Tim Kinsella explained that the base has a longstanding program to train military students from ally nations. Military from around the world go to the base for flight training.
“There’s always been international students training here,” Kinsella told reporters. “He was in the aviation pipeline … training in aviation.”
The Pentagon said that there are currently 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries in the United States for Department of Defense security cooperation related training.
The shooting took place in Building 633, which is part of the Naval Aviation Schools Command and is where Navy personnel entering flight training first report. Two Escambia County deputies shot and killed the gunman, and by 7:50 a.m., the threat was over. Both deputies were wounded — one in the knee, another in the arm.
Officials confirmed the shooting was contained within two floors in one building. The base said it will be closed for the remainder of Friday and that only “essential personnel” will be allowed to enter.
The FBI is taking over the investigation.
Naval Air Station Pensacola is a United States Navy base located next to Warrington, Florida. The base employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. It is also home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Naval Aviation Museum.
This is the second shooting to occur on a U.S. Navy base this week. On Wednesday, a sailor opened fire at a U.S. Navy shipyard at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, killing two civilian shipyard employees and wounding another before dying from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a Navy spokesman.