One of the three sailors shot and killed Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola graduated from the Naval Academy graduate in May, the academy confirmed Sunday.
Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, reported to Pensacola last month to begin his aviation training. Friday morning, a man identified as a Saudi military officer entered a classroom at the air station and opened fire with a handgun, killing three navy sailors and wounding two sheriff’s deputies before the shooter was shot and killed by one of the deputies. Eight additional people were injured.
The fatal attack is being investigated as an act of terrorism, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said during a news conference Sunday.
The sailors were identified Saturday as Watson, of Coffee County, Alabama: Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia.
The Navy regards the three sailors as heroes for running toward danger and saving lives “in the face of evil.”
“Our hearts are heavy and with the families and friends of Ensign Watson, Airman Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Walters, who gave the ultimate sacrifice at the onset of their Naval service,” an academy said in a statement released Sunday morning.
Watson graduated from the Naval Academy in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a member of 10th company and captained the 2018-2019 Rifle Team. Watson was assigned to naval aviation in Florida and after a brief time at the Naval Academy’s Physical Education department, he reported to Pensacola in November.
After being shot multiple times, Watson was able to inform first responders of the shooter’s location, his brother Adam Watson said in a Facebook post.
“He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled,” Adam Watson said in a post.
Federal officials are still determining the motive for the attack. The shooter was identified Saturday as Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, a Saudi student. He was a 2nd lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force and a student naval flight officer of Naval Aviation Schools Command.
The Saudi student hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Saturday.
One of the three students who attended the dinner party videotaped outside the building while the shooting was taking place at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday, said the U.S. official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity after being briefed by federal authorities. Two other Saudi students watched from a car, the official said.
The official said 10 Saudi students were being held on the base Saturday while several others were unaccounted for.
The Pensacola shooting is the second time that gun violence has touched the Naval Academy community in a week. A Navy sailor shot and killed two people at Pearl Harbor Wednesday before turning the gun on himself.
Gabriel Romero, 22, joined the Navy two years ago and was reportedly unhappy with his commanders. He was armed for his security shift standing outside submarine USS Columbia when he shot and killed Roldan Agustin, 49, and Vincent Kapoi Jr., 30.