US navy base gunman ‘played mass shooting videos at dinner’
A Saudi student who gunned down three sailors at a Florida navy base had hosted a dinner earlier in the week to watch videos of mass shootings, a US official has said.
Mohammed Alshamrani also appeared to have posted criticism of US wars and quoted 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the attack.
The 21-year-old airman, who was training at the Pensacola base, opened fire inside a classroom on Friday, killing three people and leaving at least eight others injured.
He was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy minutes after the shooting.
The young officer was reported to have played videos of mass shootings at a dinner party just days before the deadly rampage, a navy official said.
One of the three students who attended the party, hosted by Alshamrani, is said to have recorded video outside the classroom building while the attack took place.
#UPDATE: #USNavy releases names of the Sailors Killed in @NASPCOLA Shooting. “We feel the loss profoundly and grieve with the family and friends of the deceased.” – Capt. Tim Kinsella, CO, NAS Pensacola https://t.co/mhqmUBehI7pic.twitter.com/tQuSGtf3Wh
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) December 8, 2019
Two other students watched from the car, the official said, adding that ten Saudi students were being held at the base on Saturday.
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It comes as all three victims who died at the base were identified by the US Navy, which praised the flight school students for their “exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil”.
“When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives,” Capt Tim Kinsella, the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola, said in a statement.
Victim Joshua Watson was hailed a hero after his family said he led first responders to the gunman at the navy base just minutes before he was shot dead.
His brother Adam said the 23-year-old, who had just graduated from the US Naval Academy and was looking forward to a military career as a pilot, 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,” Mr Watson wrote on Facebook.
“He died a hero,” he added.
The navy identified the two other victims as Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St Petersburg, Florida, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia.
All three flight school students were praised by the navy for their “exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil”.
A US official said the FBI was examining social media posts and investigating whether the attacker acted alone or was connected to any broader group.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper was asked whether he could say definitively that the shooting was an act of terrorism on Saturday, to which he replied: “No, I can’t say it’s terrorism at this time”.
President Donald Trump also declined to say whether the shooting was terrorism-related.
He tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims and noted that Saudi King Salman had reassured him on a phone call that the gunman “in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people”.
There are currently more than 850 Saudis in the US for military training activities.
They are among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries in the US going through military training.