Gov. DeSantis, other state leaders rush support to shooting site at Pensacola Naval Air Station

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses reporters following a mass shooting on Dec. 6, 2019, at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Credit: Governor's office

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that he will look to the Saudi government to compensate victims of a mass shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a member of the Saudi air force who used a handgun to shoot four people to death and wound eight others.

“I think there’s obviously going to be a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi air force, and then to be here training on our soil to do this,” the governor said during a news conference at the base.

Investigators with the FBI, U.S. Department of Defense, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department will seek to answer those questions, he said.

DeSantis, a former attorney with the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, added that he’d spoken to President Trump about the Saudi government’s responsibility for compensating victims of the second mass shooting on a U.S. military installation this week.

“I think that they’re going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals,” the governor said.

DeSantis ordered U.S. and state flags flow at half staff at state facilities through Dec. 13.

He praised local deputies and service members for responding to and ending the violence. Two of the wounded were sheriff’s deputies.

“Lives were saved because of the response of people both in uniform with the Navy and in uniform with Escambia County. In one of the darkest days, I think, in the base’s history, you still saw some of that bravery and grit come out.”

Officials weren’t discussing their preliminary findings, saying that to do so might contaminate witness’ recollections. They specifically declined to disclose the gunman’s identify or motive, although they did update the death count from earlier reports.

However, CNN has identified him as Mohammed Alshamrani, citing two law enforcement sources.

“You’re going to have to trust us. We’re going to tell you what you need to know to keep our communities and our state and our nation safe,” Sheriff David Morgan said. But “you will hear the truth from us as best we can tell you.”

NAS commander Capt. Timothy Kinsella Jr. said his base routinely trains pilots for overseas allies and that “a couple of hundred” may be undergoing training at any time. Weapons aren’t authorized on base for most personnel, he said.

Base response teams train with local authorities, including the sheriff’s department and Pensacola and county fire and rescue teams, Kensella added.

Earlier: Gov. Ron DeSantis was headed Friday to Pensacola Naval Air Station Friday, where four people, including the gunmen, were shot to death that morning, while other Florida political leadership monitored developments.

Helen Aguirre Ferré, the governor’s communications director, confirmed that DeSantis would visit the scene.

The governor’s daily schedule reflected telephone calls between DeSantis and Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Rick Swearingen, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, and NAS commander Capt. Timothy Kinsella Jr. regarding the incident.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez’s schedule included a telephone discussion with Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

DeSantis said via Twitter that the state emergency response team “is also deploying Florida’s disaster recovery mental health coordinator to coordinate mental health resources for families impacted by this tragic shooting.”

First Lady Casey DeSantis said via her own Twitter account: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic events at NAS Pensacola and we pray for all the victims and their families during this difficult time.”

According to news reports, the shooting began at around 6:30 a.m. in a classroom building and concluded at around 8 a.m. Eight people were sent to a hospital, one of whom died. Three died at the scene, including the gunman. The wounded included two sheriffs’ deputies, WEAR-TV reported.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican who represents the area, also commented about the incident. “Please pray for our military service members, law enforcement, and other first responders as they work to address the situation, he said, again on Twitter.

“NAS Pensacola is a huge source of pride for all of Northwest Florida,” Gaetz added. “It is the home of naval aviation. It is the home of the Blue Angels. In our home, this is who we are. Thank you for keeping Pensacola in your hearts and in your prayers as we deal with this difficult day.”

The facility trains pilots and aircraft ground support crews.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said he offered assistance to base and local authorities. “These brave officers did an incredible job responding to the threat. We are truly thankful for their commitment to protecting our communities,” he said of deputies through Twitter.

“We are in close contact with all the relevant officials & closely monitoring events. Please pray for everyone impacted by this horrible situation,” Marco Rubio, Florida’s senior U.S. senator, said on his account.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.