The Pensacola gunman bought his weapon legally, sources say

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that it's too early to say if a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola is a terrorist act while speaking at the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum.

Posted: Dec 8, 2019 2:30 PM
Updated: Dec 8, 2019 2:30 PM

The Saudi officer legally bought the gun he used to kill three sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, according to two law enforcement sources.

One source said Mohammed Alshamrani purchased the weapon from a gun store earlier this year.

He obtained a hunting license, which allows a non-immigrant on a non-immigrant visa to purchase a gun, the source said.

Meanwhile, investigators have been trying to determine what motivated Alshamrani to open fire in a classroom building on Friday. He used a handgun and was killed after two deputies exchanged gunfire with him.

The FBI identified Alshamrani as the shooter. He was a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the Saudi Arabian air force and a student naval flight officer, according to an FBI spokesperson.

It does not appear he had ties to terrorist groups, two sources told CNN.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told CNN's Erin Burnett that the FBI had secured the areas on base where the shooter was staying and they had recovered his laptop and cell phone.

A senior administration official told CNN that investigators found some concerning statements and online materials but noted that it was still early in the investigation.

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation" that the assault "appears to be a terrorist attack" but authorities will have to "wait to see what the FBI investigation shows."

Motive still under investigation

Just minutes before authorities were first alerted to the deadly shooting, a Twitter account aligning with Alshamrani's name posted a message that raises the possibility the attack was inspired by al Qaeda and its founder, Osama bin Laden, CNN's Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank said.

The first call alerting law enforcement of an incident at the Florida base came about 6:51 a.m., according to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Twelve minutes before, at 6:39 a.m., a Twitter account with the handle @M7MD_SHAMRANI posted a message addressed to the American people, declaring hate for Americans because of their "crimes" against Muslims.

CNN has been unable to verify the source of the tweet, which was previously reported on by SITE Intelligence Group. Law enforcement has not commented on it.

When asked about the account, Twitter spokeswoman Aly Pavela confirmed the account was suspended and said, "That's all we have to share."

The message, addressed to the American people, repurposed words used by bin Laden and the American al Qaeda terrorist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

When asked about the gunman's motive on Saturday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper stressed the investigation was ongoing.

"I can't say it's terrorism at this time. I think we need to let the investigators of the FBI do its work," he said.

The FBI office in Jacksonville said it was not "not aware of any credible threat toward the Pensacola community."

The shooter

Before Friday's attack, Alshamrani watched mass shooting videos at a dinner party, The New York Times reported, citing a source with knowledge of the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Alshamrani and a small group of Saudi nationals had just traveled to New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday, a law enforcement source told CNN.

They visited several museums and the Rockefeller Center, where the Christmas tree lighting was taking place. Authorities don't know why they traveled to the city, the source said.

The Saudis who accompanied Alshamrani are currently being interviewed by law enforcement and are being cooperative, the source added.

Earlier on Saturday, a US official told CNN that a number of Saudi nationals have been detained for questioning in connection with the shooting. The US official did not provide information about the connection between the shooter and the Saudis or the status of those who were detained.

President Donald Trump has said it is not known whether one person or a "number of people" were responsible for the attack.

"We will get to the bottom" of what happened, he said Saturday.

Alshamrani had been training at the Florida base for two years, a spokesperson for the assistant to the secretary of defense said.

Foreign students from "partner nations" have trained at the base to learn naval aviation for years, Commanding Officer of NAS Pensacola Capt. Tim Kinsella told reporters.

The victims

Three US Navy sailors were killed when they "didn't run from danger" after the gunman opened fire at the base, US Navy officials said.

The sailors were Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida; Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia; and Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, from Coffee County, Alabama.

Watson had been training to become a military jet pilot when he died Friday after the gunman opened fire at a classroom building inside the base, his family said.

"My youngest brother gave his life for his country in a senseless shooting," his brother, Adam Watson, wrote in a Facebook post. "We are beyond proud, but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled."

Watson was a senior at the US Naval Academy last spring and was a four-year member of the school's NCAA rifle team.

Sameh Haitham, the father of Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, told CNN his son "was an exceptional kid."

The 19-year-old was an "all-star athlete" who took part in running and basketball before joining the Navy.

Several others were wounded, including two sheriff's deputies and a Navy police officer, Escambia County Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said at a prayer vigil in Pensacola Saturday.

One deputy, who was shot in the arm, was treated and released on Friday. The other deputy had surgery on Friday and is expected to recover, Simmons said.

The Navy officer is "going to be fine," Simmons added.

Details about the others who were wounded were not available.

Friday's attack was the second shooting at a military base in three days. Last week, active duty US sailor Seaman Gabriel Romero killed two civilian employees and injured another before killing himself at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. Investigators have not announced a motive for that shooting.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 614946

Reported Deaths: 9807
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion849231342
Lake45784693
Allen33103560
Hamilton29752316
St. Joseph27572383
Elkhart24496346
Vanderburgh19679255
Tippecanoe18150144
Johnson15234296
Porter14970172
Hendricks14550253
Madison11071223
Clark10852145
Vigo10819185
Monroe9496115
Delaware9193136
LaPorte9173164
Howard8325148
Kosciusko811485
Warrick683399
Hancock6783106
Bartholomew6659100
Floyd6522113
Wayne6194164
Grant6050118
Dubois559081
Boone557968
Morgan551996
Henry512365
Marshall507884
Dearborn488745
Cass487864
Noble476159
Jackson428747
Shelby423381
Lawrence395180
Clinton375845
Gibson375560
Harrison354046
DeKalb351365
Montgomery349754
Knox337839
Miami325244
Steuben315846
Whitley313126
Wabash306951
Adams303636
Ripley301646
Putnam299152
Huntington295760
Jasper293035
White275943
Daviess271776
Jefferson267738
Decatur249983
Fayette249949
Greene242763
Posey241828
Wells237551
LaGrange230363
Scott227939
Clay225032
Randolph215848
Jennings200937
Spencer193622
Sullivan193633
Washington189023
Fountain185227
Starke177044
Jay168723
Owen168338
Fulton165430
Orange161035
Carroll160616
Rush156418
Perry156129
Vermillion150034
Franklin149933
Tipton134433
Parke13098
Pike118826
Blackford112023
Pulaski97937
Newton92621
Brown88835
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin75013
Warren6867
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4967
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 872918

Reported Deaths: 10856
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102616707
Cuyahoga868931154
Hamilton65148455
Montgomery43662420
Summit35411766
Lucas31794634
Butler31451232
Stark26247445
Warren19939144
Lorain19378229
Mahoning17561339
Lake16350161
Clermont16235113
Delaware1463881
Licking13453142
Fairfield1301782
Trumbull12980317
Greene12226144
Medina11798169
Clark11094266
Wood10507158
Allen10031128
Portage9514111
Richland9275134
Miami927273
Marion7512113
Tuscarawas7455186
Columbiana7433124
Pickaway735250
Muskingum714042
Wayne7140172
Erie6253130
Ross5589100
Hancock556292
Scioto545365
Geauga518955
Darke474395
Lawrence464658
Union459130
Ashtabula457973
Sandusky440462
Huron435541
Mercer435590
Seneca435366
Auglaize425166
Belmont423948
Jefferson423969
Shelby422923
Washington396340
Athens38619
Putnam379276
Madison359930
Knox358423
Ashland349638
Fulton341744
Defiance336188
Crawford327274
Preble323637
Brown318821
Logan314835
Ottawa297443
Clinton293944
Highland282219
Williams282267
Jackson266145
Guernsey259326
Champaign254628
Fayette241030
Morrow23594
Perry235518
Holmes227274
Henry222954
Hardin217033
Coshocton208023
Van Wert204445
Gallia200126
Wyandot198151
Pike180918
Adams179815
Hocking174024
Carroll158216
Paulding145521
Noble121040
Meigs110324
Monroe103433
Harrison89821
Morgan84531
Vinton71714
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 18°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 11°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 26° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 18°
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 18°
Lima
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 16°
More Clouds than Sun Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events