Murder in Pensacola

On a Friday, earlier this month (12-6-19), a Saudi National, here in the U.S. for military pilot training, walked into a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola, and with a handgun legally-acquired here, opened fire, wounding a reported eight persons (including two deputies), and killing three others.

Of the two naval airman killed, one was from Florida, and the other, Cameron Scott Walters, age 21, was from Richmond Hill GA (a community just south of Savannah).  The third person who perished was Navy Ensign Joshua Watson, age 23, from Alabama, an Annapolis Naval Academy graduate. Although he would succumb to his wounds there, he was somehow able to direct arriving law enforcement to the location of the Saudi killer. By so doing, having saved others from injury or death, there is no question that Ensign Watson died a Navy hero.  The assailant, Saudi Second Lieutenant Mohammed Alshamrani, was subsequently killed by law enforcement at the scene. The question, still being investigated by military and civilian officials, is what prompted the violent attack, after the gunman’s two-years of residence at Pensacola.

In the months preceding the attack, the Saudi Lieutenant had made a visit back home to Saudi Arabia, a trip he had made more than once during breaks in the training schedule. But upon his return, this time was different, according to other students interviewed.  He was characterized as “angry,” as if he was “angry at the world.”

Months before the shooting, he had filed a formal complaint against an instructor (civilian contractor) who he alleged had called him by a nickname he found to be objectionable. The instructor was reportedly later reprimanded by his company. But that was much before the attack and appears to have been an isolated incident, not a lingering one.

There is a feeling that this particular Saudi may have come under the influence of more radical religious clerics in Saudi Arabia, and perhaps elsewhere, going back, it’s estimated, to as early as 2015.  But it does appear to authorities, as of this writing, that something may have occurred during the most recent trip to his home country to “radicalize” him; to make him, as observed, “angry” upon his return.  Authorities were subsequently alerted to Twitter remarks, seemingly written on his account, near to the time of his attack. Among his entries, was reportedly the following: “I’m against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.”  He continued: “I’m not against you for just being American.  I hate you because every day you support funding and committing crimes, not only against Muslims but also humanity.”

Then sometime before his deadly shooting spree, he is said to have hosted a dinner gathering with several other Saudi pilot trainees, after which they were said to have viewed videos of “mass shootings.” Making matters even more incriminating, authorities have reported that one or more of his fellow Saudi students actually recorded the Lieutenant’s murderous assault, meaning that they were fully aware of his intentions ahead of time, but did nothing to stop it!!

Not surprisingly, those particular students, and a small number of other Saudi trainees, were taken into custody for questioning. Its reported that some others may have actually left the base without permission, presumably deserting permanently.  And we know that this is not the first time that Saudi, or other foreign nationals, here for training have left and disappeared into our nation.

Not surprisingly, the training for Saudi students at Pensacola (about 850) has been put on hold until further notice.  And the Pentagon has ordered much tighter vetting of all foreign nationals selected for training in the United States.  Overall, there are said to be over 5,000 foreign students, from 153 countries, currently training at U.S. installations.  Such training here, although going on for many decades, took on more urgency following the attacks on America on 9/11, where, you may recall, 15 of the 19 aircraft hijackers were Saudis.  Saudi Arabia continues to be a major purchaser of U.S. military equipment, including jet aircraft, thus the ongoing training regimen here.

Whether acting alone, or on behalf of some yet-to-be identified group, this deadly attack at Pensacola was clearly one of terrorism.  Regrettably, the scourge of radical Islam has, once again, emerged here in America. Whether just one bad apple, or a continuing subversive effort, is unknown at this time.  There is far too much at stake, both for our military members, and for the U.S. citizenry in general, for this deadly incident not to be thoroughly investigated, both here and in Saudi Arabia, with necessarily enhanced protective steps to follow.  Recall that this is not the first time that Saudi trainees have deserted installations here. Why?  What was their intent? Do we have any idea if they are still here in hiding, or hopefully have left and headed home?  And one footnote.  You’ll remember it was mentioned earlier that the Saudi gunman in question had legally obtained the deadly handgun here in the U.S. That capability must be stopped.  And it may take an act of Congress to shut down the capability of foreigners to do so.

In the meantime, several Navy pilots at Pensacola have sent a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee(s) requesting Congressional pressure to enable those military members (and likely others) to be armed on-duty. Their letter stated, in part: (Servicemembers) “can be entrusted to fly multimillion-dollar aircraft over hostile territory, command companies of infantrymen in battle, or captain ships around the world…but when back home, are not trusted to carry a simple pistol in order to protect themselves.”

This may become all the more critical, as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has now announced his intention to expand the number of foreign students invited here for our military training programs.  Said he: “I want to increase that by 50% over the coming five-years.”  No question, this will increase the pressure to allow on- post military members to be armed, an issue that’s been simmering since the Fort Hood massacre last decade, also committed by a deranged Islamic radical, this one a U.S. Army officer.

With expanding training of foreign students in mind, we must re-double our efforts, here and in the countries of origin, to closely examine the mental and philosophical stability of students selected who are coming from countries housing elements of radical Islam.  And then, once here, such students must be continually and closely monitored, both for indications of radical intent, and to stop the desertion into our nation of disgruntled foreign nationals.  When rogue Islamics are identified, in military training, or otherwise in our society, they should be quickly and routinely apprehended and deported, no exceptions.  One American life is worth far more than all the Islamic terrorists on the planet.

UPDATE:  Attorney General William Barr has officially announced what most have expected:  The December murder of 3 U.S. sailors and the wounding of 8 others at Naval Air Station Pensacola was an “act of terrorism.”  The Saudi gunman (now being held) was “motivated by jihadist ideology.”  The U.S. has now expelled 21 Saudi nationals training here at facilities both at Pensacola and elsewhere for related concerns.  (Source:, Greg Norman, 1-13-20)


(Ensign Watson via, Bob McManus, 12-10-19; Saudi gunman “angry,” quotes about “evil” and videos via, Ralph Ortega, 12-9-19; Numbers of foreign student trainees here via The Wall Street Journal, Nancy Youssef/Michael Gordon, 12-9-19; Arming military members on base via the, John Bowden, 12-15-19; Expanding foreign trainees via, Shawn Snow, 12-13-19).