Update: The Saudi student who shot and killed three people at a US naval base in Florida hosted a dinner party the night before the attack where he and others watched videos of mass shootings, according to the Associated Press, citing a US official.
One of the three students at the dinner recorded the shooting outside the building at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday. According to the report, two other Saudi students watched from a car.
Six Saudi nationals were taken into custody for questioning near the Florida naval base where an Air Force trainee – also from Saudi Arabia – opened fire Friday morning, killing three before a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed him.
According to the New York Times, three of the Saudis were filming the attack. It is unknown whether they were students at the base, or whether they are connected to the gunman.
The shooting spanned two floors in a classroom, according to Sheriff David Morgan of Escambia Country. Two deputies were shot in the ensuing gun battle and are expected to recover.
The gunman, identified as Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, used a locally bought Glock 45 9mm handgun with an extended magazine, and was carrying between four and six more magazines.
The FBI is leading the investigation into the incident at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola in Florida, and initially withheld Alshamrani’s name.
He was allegedly a student enrolled in a Navy training program designed for ” immersing international students in our U.S. Navy training and culture ” to help “build partnership capacity for both the present and for the years ahead,” accoring to Fox News, citing 2017 comments by Cmdr. Bill Gibson, who is the center’s officer in charge.
“These relationships are truly a win-win for everyone involved,” he added at the time.
Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) called for a “full review” of the Navy training programs in the wake of the shooting, while investigators have said they are exploring whether the attack was an act of organized terrorism.
“I’m very concerned that the shooter in Pensacola was a foreign national training on a U.S. base. Today, I’m calling for a full review of the U.S. military programs to train foreign nationals on American soil. We shouldn’t be providing military training to people who wish us harm,” said Scott.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Friday that although his first priority is supporting the ongoing investigation and determining the shooter’s motives, he also said: “I want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence to understand what are our procedures” concerning the training programs.
“Is it sufficient [et cetera, et cetera] and it may not be — it may be the vetting — are we also screening persons coming to make sure that they have, you know, their life in order, you know, their mental health is adequate,” Esper said. “So we need to look at all that.”
Esper referred to the shooter as a Saudi national who was a second lieutenant in flight training.
Sources told Fox News that the scene of the shooting — a classroom, where students usually spend three months at the beginning of the program — indicated that the shooter was a student who was “early” in his training. –Fox News
Approximately 1,500 pilots are enrolled in the Naval training program – with Saudis having attended courses at the Pensacola site since the 1970s. According to the report, as many as 20 students from the Islamic Republic are in any given class – with many of them belonging to the Royal Family.
Following the shooting, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs conveyed “its deep distress,” offering “its sincere condolences to the victims’ families, and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.”
“The perpetrator of this horrific attack does not represent the Saudi people whatsoever. The American people are held in the highest regard by the Saudi people,” reads a statement from the Ministry. “Building upon the strong ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and in continuation of the ongoing cooperation between the two countries’ security agencies, the Saudi security agencies will provide full support to the US authorities to investigate the circumstances of this crime.”
President Trump, meanwhile, relayed King Salman of Saudi Arabia’s “sincere condolences,” and gave his “sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack…”
“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people,” said Trump.