Congressman Gaetz: Shooting investigated as terrorism

UPDATE Dec. 6, 3 p.m.: In national news reports, several law enforcement officers have identified the shooter at NAS Pensacola as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi Air Force. He was an aviation student at the Naval Air Station.

In Gulf Breeze, students and residents are learning one of their own was shot multiple times during the incident. Coach Ryan Blackwell is the assistant wrestling coach at Gulf Breeze High School and active duty Navy. He was shot three times. According to a statement released by the City of Gulf Breeze, Blackwell’s thoughts were with his team before going into surgery as he called the head wrestling coach to tell him we wouldn’t make it to this weekend’s wrestling tournament. Blackwell is listed in stable condition.

Congressman Matt Gaetz has labeled today’s shooting as an act of terror. In an email to Navarre Press, Gaetz said, “the investigation is being handed over from NCIS to the FBI. That is the signal that this will now be treated by our government as an act of terrorism, not a murder.”

Gaetz has steadily committed to a stronger vetting process for people entering the United States. He continues that stand saying, “This event demonstrates a serious failure in the vetting process and in the way in which we invite these people into our community. I’m working with the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure there’s extreme vetting for people who come to our country and train on our bases.”

On a more personal note, Gaetz asked all of Northwest Florida to stand with NAS Pensacola.

“NAS Pensacola is a huge source of pride for all of Northwest Florida. It is the home of naval aviation. It is the home of the Blue Angels. In our home, this is who we are. Please continue to keep Pensacola in your hearts and in your prayers as we deal with this difficult day,” he said.

The names of the victims will not be released until 24 hours after families have been notified.

Navarre Press will continue to keep you updated.

UPDATE Dec. 6, 12:50: A shooting at NAS Pensacola is being investigated as an act of terrorism Congressman Matt Gaetz publicly stated Friday.

He said the investigation has been handed over to the FBI.

The shooting which occurred at approximately 6:30 a.m. in classroom building 633 resulted in the death of three victims and injured at least eight people. The shooting suspect was also killed by responding Escambia County sheriff’s deputies.

Sheriff David Morgan stated during a press conference this afternoon that the weapon used was a handgun.

Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed during a press conference at the base that the alleged shooter was a Saudi Arabian aviation student training at NAS Pensacola. He said there will be many questions.

“The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make this right for the victims,” he said.

Hundreds of students from other partner nations come through NAS Pensacola for flight training said base commander Capt. Timothy F. Kinsella Jr. He said the suspect was in the aviation training pipeline but declined to comment further.

Kinsella also stated students are not permitted to bring guns on base.

DeSantis also praised the first responders during the conference.

“Lives were saved…even individuals who had been wounded thinking about others and what could be done to save others,” DeSantis said.

Morgan asked the public to be patient with the limited information that can be provided at this time. He asked the public for trust.

UPDATE Dec. 6, 12:11 p.m.: A U.S. official has identified the suspect in Friday’s mass shooting at NAS Pensacola as a Saudi Arabian aviation student according to reporting by The Associated Press.

AP also reports authorities are investigating if the shooting was terrorism-related, and that this is the second shooting at a U.S. Navy base this week.

According to officials with the base and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, eight people, including two sheriff’s deputies were injured during the incident. Four people, including the shooter, have been reported dead.

The identity of the shooter and the victims has not been released at this time. Another press conference update is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

The base remains closed at this time.

UPDATE Dec. 6, 10 a.m.: Following a shooting on NAS Pensacola Friday morning, four people are dead, including the shooter, and at least eight others have been transported to Baptist hospital officials said in a 9:30 a.m. press conference.

Navy base commander Capt. Timothy F. Kinsella Jr. told reporters during a press conference the incident began at 6:30 a.m., and NAS Pensacola Security responded to the scene.

“We do have several deceased and several wounded,” Kinsella said. “My heart goes out to the families of the deceased and the wounded. They are part of the Navy family. They are part of us.”

Few details are being shared at this time as families of the victims are being notified by grief counselors with the base and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Information is also not being shared about the shooter at this time.

At 6:51 a.m. dispatchers in Escambia County were called to an active shooter incident ongoing in classroom building 633 on base. The incident spanned across two floors according to officials. Two Escambia County Sheriff’s Office squad cars responded to the scene said sheriff David Morgan. Additional units quickly followed.

Escambia County deputies are credited with “neutralizing the threat” and officials emphasized that the danger has passed.

Morgan said while they trained for these types of incidents, they were not expected to happen in Pensacola.

“Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie,” he said of the tragedy.

Two deputies were among the eight injured individuals transported to Baptist Hospital for treatment. Three others were injured but remained at the scene according to the press release.

One of the deputies was shot in the arm. The other was shot in the knee and is currently undergoing surgery according to Morgan. Both are expected to make a full recovery.

Kinsella said the incident could have been much worse if first responders had not reacted the way they did.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said the city is currently supporting the base in any way possible. He said Pensacola is a military town.

“Our hearts and prayers are connected to the ones who serve us every day,” he said. “Certainly…that this would happen here at home was unexpected, but I can tell you that all our hearts are with the men and women that are out on this base.”

The base is closed indefinitely, and an active investigation is underway involving federal agencies, including the FBI. Kinsella said personnel on base will be sent home in a controlled, orderly manner.

Robinson urged the public to stay out of the area.

“If you have no business in this part of Warrington, please do not come over here. Everything is closed,” he said.

Original, Dec. 6 8:20 a.m.: An active shooter reported at NAS Pensacola early this morning is deceased according to NAS Pensacola public affairs office.

At approximately 6:30 a.m., NAS Pensacola Security received a report of an active shooter on board the base. Security and local law enforcement responded.

Public affairs confirmed one active shooter who is now deceased. Two victims are confirmed dead, and three additional people are injured.

The base is closed at this time, and the public is advised to avoid the area. More information will be shared. 

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