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Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting

Coordinates: 30°21′0″N 87°17′24″W / 30.35000°N 87.29000°W / 30.35000; -87.29000
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Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting
Part of Terrorism in the United States, War on Terror, and mass shootings in the United States
Naval Air Station Pensacola is located in Florida
Naval Air Station Pensacola
Naval Air Station Pensacola
Naval Air Station Pensacola (Florida)
Naval Air Station Pensacola is located in the United States
Naval Air Station Pensacola
Naval Air Station Pensacola
Naval Air Station Pensacola (the United States)
LocationNaval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, United States
Coordinates30°20′57.1″N 87°16′28.3″W / 30.349194°N 87.274528°W / 30.349194; -87.274528
DateDecember 6, 2019 (2019-12-06)
6:51 – 7:45 a.m. (ET UTC−05:00)
WeaponsGlock 45 9mm handgun[1]
Deaths4 (including the perpetrator)[2]
PerpetratorAl-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
AssailantMohammed Saeed Alshamrani
MotiveIslamic extremism

On the morning of December 6, 2019, a terrorist attack occurred at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida.[3][4][5] The assailant killed three men and injured eight others.[6][7][8] The shooter was killed by Escambia County sheriff deputies after they arrived at the scene.[9] He was identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, an Air Force aviation student from Saudi Arabia.[10][11]

The FBI investigated the case as a presumed terrorism incident, while searching for the motive behind the attack.[12] On January 13, 2020, the Department of Justice said they had officially classified the incident as an act of terrorism, motivated by "jihadist ideology."[5][4]

On February 2, 2020, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the shooting. In an audio recording, emir of the Yemen-based group Qasim al-Raymi said they directed Alshamrani to carry out the attack.[13] On May 18, 2020, the FBI corroborated the claims.[14]


Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, was participating in a training program sponsored by the Pentagon as part of a security cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.[15] A United States Department of Defense official said more than 850 Saudi nationals are in the U.S. participating in the training program, which includes English, basic aviation, and initial pilot training.[10]

Saudi Arabia is one of many countries allied to the United States that send members of their military to the naval station for training.[9] At the time of the shooting, the program hosted 5,180 students from 153 countries, including the perpetrator.[16]


Prior to the attack, at 6:39 a.m. a message on Twitter was posted by a user using the handle @M7MD_SHAMRANI, which declared hate for Americans due to its support of Israel. This message has not yet been verified as being posted by the perpetrator.[7]

The shooting began at 6:43 a.m.[17] and was first reported at 6:51 a.m. when the suspect, armed with a 9mm Glock handgun and several extra magazines,[18] opened fire in one of the classroom buildings.[19] During the incident he moved through two floors of the building, discharging his weapon on both.[20] One of the victims was able to make his way away from the scene to alert the first response team of the location of the shooter amongst other details.[21] The suspect was shot and killed at 6:58 a.m.[17] after two deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office and members of the base security force exchanged gunfire with him.[9][22]

The outside of the building was videotaped by another Saudi Arabian student while the shooting was occurring, as two additional Saudi Arabian students watched the shooting from a car.[23] The student who was filming, and the other two students, had attended a dinner party hosted by the perpetrator prior to the attack.[16]


The shooter killed three U.S. Navy sailors, and injured eight others who were taken to the hospital, including the two deputies who sustained gunshots to their limbs.[9][24] Of the deceased, two were declared dead at the navy base and the third, who was able to get to authorities and give them a description of the shooter, died at the hospital.[25]

The three victims who died from their injuries were a 19-year-old airman from St. Petersburg, Florida; a 23-year-old ensign and recent graduate of the United States Naval Academy from Enterprise, Alabama; and a 21-year-old airman apprentice from Richmond Hill, Georgia.[25][26]


Photo of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani issued by the FBI

The FBI identified the gunman as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, and said he was the sole shooter.[18] He was participating in aviation training at the station.[7][6][27] His training with the program began in August 2017 and was scheduled to conclude in August 2020, and included initial pilot training, basic aviation, and English-language instruction.[28]

SITE Intelligence Group said that someone who may have been Alshamrani posted a justification of the planned attack on Twitter before the shooting. The post referred to U.S. wars in Muslim countries, wrote of his hatred for the American people, criticized the U.S. government's support of Israel, and quoted Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.[29][30]

Prior to the shooting, Alshamrani had hosted a dinner party at which he and three other Saudi Arabian students had watched videos of other U.S. mass shootings.[23]


Mural on 17th Avenue bridge painted by a resident of Pensacola

Due to the attack, the national anthem was not played on the loudspeakers of the base at 8:00 a.m., as was otherwise customary. The store Wings & Things Monogramming and its parking lot was used as a congregation area for many military members who were not able to enter the locked-down base.[31]

A mural was started by a local artist at the local Graffiti Bridge to honor the victims and survivors.[31]


All foreign students on the base were accounted for and no arrests were made; students from Saudi Arabia were ordered by their Saudi Arabian commanding officer to remain on the base. The FBI agent leading the investigation said that all of the Saudi Arabian students were cooperating with the investigation.[32]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into the perpetrator's social media. Investigators looked for any signs of radicalization in the perpetrator's upbringing, and whether the attack was an act of terror.[21] Officials reported that the perpetrator had obtained a hunting license which allows for non-immigrants on a non-immigrant visa to purchase a gun. He then legally purchased a weapon from a gun store earlier in the year.[33]

A brief by the FBI on the shooting in Pensacola

On December 8, the FBI said it was treating the shooting as a presumed terrorist attack.[34] The Navy suspended flight training for all Saudi Arabian military aviation students pending the results of the FBI investigation; they will continue to get classroom instruction. Flight training was resumed for all other international students.[35]

On December 11, a Saudi Arabian government analysis revealed that the shooter appears to have embraced radical ideology as early as 2015. A Twitter account believed to have been used by al-Shamrani, indicates that four religious figures described as radical appear to have shaped his extremist thoughts. The account also expressed support for radical Islam and terrorism, sectarianism, support for the Taliban, and hatred for the West.[36]

Another investigation was opened by Defense Secretary Mark Esper into the vetting measures that go into accepting foreign nationals into the United States to train with the military.[21]

On January 12, 2020, Attorney General William Barr declared the Pensacola shooting an "act of terrorism" that was motivated by "jihadist ideology".[37] On May 18, 2020, Barr announced the FBI had managed to unlock the shooter's iPhone without Apple's help.[38]



Matt Gaetz, the U.S. representative for Florida's 1st congressional district (which includes Pensacola), said, "I believe we can safely call this an act of terror, not an act of workplace violence."[9] Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott called for thorough investigations of military training programs for foreign nationals on U.S. soil, and possible flaws in the trainee vetting processes.[39]

On 18 October 2021, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office released a video on their Facebook page of their response to the shooting.[40]

Governor Ron DeSantis placed a large amount of blame and need for compensation on the Saudi Arabian government, saying, "They [Saudi Arabia] are going to owe a debt here given that this is one of their individuals."[39]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed "its deep distress" after the incident and offered "its sincere condolences to the victims' families, and wishes the injured a speedy recovery" through a statement.[39]

The king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, called President Donald Trump who posted about the call on December 6, through Twitter. Trump said the king had expressed his "sincere condolences" to those involved. Trump further elaborated that the king had said that the Saudi Arabian people were angered by the attack and that the perpetrator "in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people."[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mazzei, Patricia; Gibbons-Neff, Thomas; Hauser, Christine (December 7, 2019). "Florida Shooting Updates: Authorities Say It's Too Early to Know if It's Terrorism". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Carrega, Christina; Zarrell, Matt; Martinez, Luis. "4 dead including suspect after active shooter incident at Naval Air Station Pensacola, police say". ABC News. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  3. ^ Kesslen, Ben (December 9, 2019). "Pensacola naval base shooting that left 3 dead presumed to be terrorism, FBI says". NBC News. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Jihadist Ideology; January 13, 2020; report; WEAR-TV online; retrieved January 13, 2020
  5. ^ a b AG: NAS Pensacola shooter was 'a terrorist' "The Department of Justice reports...; report; January 13, 2020; Channel 23(?); retrieved January 13, 2020; quote: "...has determined that a December 6 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola was an act of terror..."
  6. ^ a b Fieldstadt, Elisha; Williams, Pete (December 6, 2019). "Suspected shooter at Naval Air Station Pensacola was Saudi Air Force member". NBC News. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Starr, Barbara; Andone, Dakin; Shortell, David (December 6, 2019). "Saudi national who shot 11 people at Pensacola Naval Air Station was taking aviation classes". CNN. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  8. ^ "Florida: four dead including suspect in naval air station shooting". The Guardian. December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e Youssef, Nancy A.; Ansari, Talal (December 6, 2019). "Pensacola Gunman Believed to Be Saudi Who Was Training at Air Base". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Hughes, Trevor; Blanks, Annie; Johnson, Kevin; Hauck, Grace (December 6, 2019). "'Barbaric': Saudi National Opens Fire in Classroom on Pensacola Navy Base, Kills 3, Injures 8". USA Today.
  11. ^ "Official: Pensacola shooter was Saudi aviation student". AP NEWS. December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Croft, Jay; Chavez, Nicole; Almasy, Steve; Starr, Barbara (December 8, 2019). "FBI presumes Pensacola base attack was an act of terror; no motive identified". CNN.
  13. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas (February 2, 2020). "AQAP claims 'full responsibility' for shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola". Long War Journal. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  14. ^ Williams, Pete (May 19, 2020). "FBI: Pensacola gunman prodded by al Qaeda to attack". NBC News. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  15. ^ Bogel-Burroughs, Nicholas (December 9, 2019). "Pensacola Attack Probed for Terrorism Link. Saudi Suspect Clashed With Instructor". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 13, 2023.
  16. ^ a b Pickrell, Ryan (December 7, 2019). "Suspect in Deadly shooting at Florida naval base hosted a dinner party to watch mass shooting videos before the attack, according to a US official". Business Insider. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Miller, Ryan W. (December 9, 2019). "Why is the Pensacola shooting being investigated as a terror attack? Here's what we know now". USA Today. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  19. ^ "Terror Angle Being Investigated in Pensacola Navy Base Shooting". www.baynews9.com. December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  20. ^ Turco, Rebecca (December 7, 2019). "FBI Begins Terror Investigation Into Pensacola Naval Base Shooting". www.mynews13.com. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  21. ^ a b c "Brother says Pensacola shooting victim saved countless lives: "He died a hero"". CBS News. December 7, 2019. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  22. ^ Henderson, Kristie (December 6, 2019). "NAS Pensacola shooting suspect identified as Saudi aviation student". WEAR-TV. Pensacola, Florida.
  23. ^ a b Farrington, Brendan (December 7, 2019). "Official: Base shooter watched shooting videos before attack". AP NEWS. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  24. ^ Blanks, Annie (December 6, 2019). "Four confirmed dead at NAS Pensacola, including shooter identified as Saudi national". Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  25. ^ a b Mills, Ryan; Robinson, Kevin (December 7, 2019). "Pensacola Navy base shooting victim 'saved countless lives,' family says". USA Today. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  26. ^ "Navy identifies 3 people killed in NAS Pensacola shooting". USA Today. December 7, 2019.
  27. ^ Zarrell, Matt; Martinez, Luis; Margolin, Josh; Katersky, Aaron (December 7, 2019). "4 dead in shooting incident at Pensacola naval base; suspect was Saudi national, officials say". ABC News. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  28. ^ a b Baldor, Lolita (December 6, 2019). "US digs into Saudi shooting suspect motive in Navy shooting". AP NEWS. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  29. ^ Brooks, Brad (December 7, 2019). "Saudi airman may have become radicalized before U.S. Navy base attack". Reuters.
  30. ^ "Friend of Pensacola gunman filmed attack, US Defense Secretary Esper says". Fox 5 San Diego.
  31. ^ a b Newby, Jake; Warren-Hicks, Colin (December 6, 2019). "'It hits so hard': Navy base community shaken, stunned over Pensacola shooting". USA Today. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  32. ^ "Saudi Gunman Tweeted Against US Before Naval Base Shooting". U.S. News. Associated Press. December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  33. ^ Chavez, Nicole; Almasy, Steve; Starr, Barbara; Shortell, David (December 8, 2019). "The Pensacola gunman bought his weapon legally, sources say". CNN. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  34. ^ "Pensacola attack is presumed terrorism – FBI". BBC. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  35. ^ "Pentagon suspends military training of Saudi students after Pensacola shooting". The Guardian. December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  36. ^ Ryan, Missy (December 11, 2019). "Gunman in Florida base shooting may have embraced radical ideology years before arriving in U.S., Saudi report says". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 7, 2020.
  37. ^ Barrett, Devlin; Zapotosky, Matt (January 13, 2020). "Pensacola shooting was an act of terrorism, attorney general says". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 27, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  38. ^ Eadicicco, Lisa (May 19, 2020). "For months, Apple said it wouldn't break into an iPhone for the FBI. Attorney General Barr just said the FBI was able to do it without Apple's help". Business Insider.
  39. ^ a b c Rambaran, Vandana (December 6, 2019). "6 Saudi nationals detained for questioning after NAS Pensacola shooting: official". Fox News. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  40. ^ https://www.facebook.com/watch/?ref=saved&v=245294830975366 [user-generated source]

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