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Investigation Of Pensacola Shooting Continues


There are still many questions surrounding the attack that killed three people and wounded eight at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday. The FBI so far has released few details about the Saudi national who opened fire in a classroom building on the naval base. They've only confirmed his name and that he was a Saudi military student at the base for flight training. But authorities say they still haven't determined the gunman's motive. NPR's Greg Allen is in Pensacola, and he joins us now. Greg, what do we know about the shooter at this point?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, as you say, the FBI did finally give us his name. It's Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He was a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force. But that's about all the FBI is saying at this point about him. They say members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force are here in Pensacola and part of the investigation, but the FBI says they're not ready yet to say if this was a terrorist attack. In the meantime, some disturbing details have begun to emerge, including a post on what's believed to have been the gunman's Twitter feed. This was posted just before the attack on Friday. And in that post, he talks broadly about America's crimes against Muslims. Twitter later took down that account and the post, and authorities haven't confirmed yet that that account is actually linked to the gunman. So it's all up in the air still.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I think we finally have some more information about some of the victims, right?

ALLEN: Right. It's been frustrating, I think, for many people that it's taken so long. They released the names of three sailors who were killed in the shooting, and this - one is Joshua Kaleb Watson, who's 23 years old from Coffee, Ala., a recent graduate of the Naval Academy. His family released information about him yesterday. His brother posted information on Facebook. In that post, he said Joshua - and I'll read from it, here's a quote - "he saved countless lives with his own. After being shot multiple times, he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was, and those details were invaluable." And Watson's father told The Pensacola News Journal that his son was taken to the hospital but didn't survive.

A second person killed was naval airman Mohammed Haitham, who's from St. Petersburg, Fla., 19 years old. He was a track star in high school. His family told the Tampa Bay Times he was in Pensacola for flight crew training. Third person killed was airman apprentice Cameron Scott Walters from Richmond Hill, Ga. When they released these names, the Navy said in a statement - the commanding officer at the Naval Air Station, Tim Kinsella, said the three sailors, quote, "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil. When confronted, they didn't run from danger. They ran towards it and saved lives." And of the eight people wounded, we know that two sheriff's deputies and a naval police officer are doing well. One deputy was released from the hospital.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you mentioned, the FBI says it's still investigating the gunman's motive. Some other officials, though, aren't waiting, and they say that this was an act of terrorism.

ALLEN: Right. Among them, Florida Senator Rick Scott and Congressman Matt Gaetz, who represents this district here. Gaetz was interviewed yesterday on WEAR-TV in Pensacola and was asked why he was convinced this was a terrorist attack. Here's what he had to say.


MATT GAETZ: If the reporting is accurate that we've seen about a dinner party hosted by the shooter before to watch active shooter videos, and if someone from that dinner party was then somehow involved in the videotaping of these events, that shows premeditated political violence. It is the definition of terrorism.

ALLEN: You know, Gaetz is referring to reporting by The New York Times that they got from law enforcement sources. The Times reports some Saudis who were on base were questioned about using their phone to video the shootings that took place, but officials told The Times there's no indication at this point this was anything more than being caught up in the moment and wanting to recording what was happening. And, of course, no comment from the FBI on any of this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Greg Allen in Pensacola. Thank you so much.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.