Good morning, Bulletin readers. Over the weekend, lots of new information surfaced about Friday’s mass shooting at Pensacola Naval Base. We’re here to help you get caught up.
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THE LATEST ON THE PENSACOLA SHOOTING
The FBI is investigating the rampage as an act of terrorism. On Sunday, the bureau officially categorized the inquiry a terrorism investigation as details continued to emerge about the Saudi Air Force trainee suspected of fatally shooting three U.S. sailors and injuring 12 other victims on Friday morning at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. The night before the attack, the gunman reportedly showed videos of past mass shootings to guests at a social gathering, and investigators are assessing whether he made social media posts critical of American policy. But the shooter’s motive is not yet known. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “one or two” other Saudi trainees also stationed at the base filmed some of the shooting. But the FBI discounted their involvement and believe the attacker, whom investigators have not linked to any known terror groups, acted alone.
The gunman got his firearm through an obscure loophole. Foreign citizens are prohibited from buying or owning firearms or ammunition in the United States, but federal law makes exceptions for temporary residents who’ve obtained a state hunting license. That’s how the shooter legally obtained the Glock he used in the shooting, a law enforcement source told CNN. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis decried the “federal loophole” that the Saudi airman “took advantage of.”
The suspect had clashed with an instructor earlier this year. In an official reviewed by The New York Times, the gunman said that a civilian contractor publicly mocked his facial hair, giving him the nickname “Porn Stash” in front of a classroom of other trainees this spring. “There has been nothing to suggest that the classroom incident had any connection to the shooting, which did not occur until more than seven months later,” the paper added.
The victims died rushing the gunman. “When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives,” the commanding officer of the Naval Air Station said. The three young sailors killed were Mohammed Haitham, 19; Cameron Scott Walters, 21; and Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23. “If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse.”
- Haitham, a track and field star from Lakewood, Florida, had just finished boot camp and had been assigned to flight crew training, the Tampa Bay Times reported. “He was an all-around great kid,” his high school journalism teacher said. “He was so nice, and a super athlete.”
- Walters, an airman apprentice from Richmond Hill, Georgia, was just 12 days into his stint in Pensacola. “Every time he would walk into a room and smile, the whole room would smile,” said his brother, who plans to join the Navy in his memory.
- Watson, a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was shot five times and managed to give first responders key details about the shooting before he succumbed to his injuries. “He died a hero,” his brother said. Watson was only two weeks into his tenure at NAS Pensacola and aspired to be a pilot.
Among the wounded are two sheriff’s deputies and a Navy airman shot twice while shielding a woman from gunfire.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY
Associated Press: “Accidental shootings raise questions about arming teachers.” An examination of public records and media reports by the wire service identified more than 1,400 accidental shootings by law enforcement personnel since 2012. The AP found that 22 of those unintentional discharges took place at a K-12 school or college. “Most people, cops included, don’t devote that practice time to be able to shoot it responsibly or carry it responsibly,” said a Washington State Police firearms instructor.
A Florida man who defied an extreme risk protection order faces prison time. The 33-year-old resident of Deerfield Beach is the first person in the state to be prosecuted for refusing to comply when asked by law enforcement agents to temporarily surrender his firearms. Local deputies had sought the extreme risk protection order (ERPO) after the man shot at a friend’s car following an argument about a borrowed cellphone. In Florida, failure to comply with an ERPO is a criminal offense.
A Sandy Hook fund mismanaged more than $100,000 in donations. State auditors discovered that most of the money donated to the Sandy Hook Worker Assistance Program was used for “other purposes,” rather than to aid the teachers, staff, and first responders who were its intended beneficiaries. The Connecticut AFL-CIO, which controls the labor group managing the fund, said it is addressing the issue.
Gun violence has killed 41 people this year in Greensboro, North Carolina, one of the many mid-sized cities whose struggles with shootings largely escape public attention. —WFMY