US domestic military bases remained on high alert Monday following a string of attacks last week by lone gunmen rattled bases in Hawaii and Florida. On Friday, a Saudi national opened fire during a training exercise, killing three people an wounding another eight at a Navy base in Pensacola.
Now, the FBI is facing tremendous pressure to get to the bottom of what happened and, crucially, whether the shooter had any help from his fellow Saudis, according to Reuters.
Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani
During a Sunday press conference, Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believed the shooting resembled an act of terrorism, and that it never would have happened if the US did a better job vetting which foreign nationals are allowed to train with the US military on US soil, just as Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani – the shooter, who was killed in a firefight on Friday – was.
“There is a lot of frustration in our state over this,” DeSantis said. “You have foreign military personnel coming to our base. They should not be doing that if they hate our country.”
The NYT reported over the weekend that six other Saudis were questioned over the shooting, but officials have been tight-lipped about the future of the training program, and whether the remaining trainees would be allowed to stay. Initial reports claimed the other Saudis had no idea the attack was coming, and the FBI currently believes that Alshamrani acted alone.
NYT also reported on Sunday that it had seen an official complaint filed by the shooter back in April against one of his instructors at the base, who had purportedly made derogatory comments about his appearance and race. This seems to be an important detail, but it’s unclear whether it had any connection to the shooting.
Moreover, authorities suspect that Alshamrani made social media posts criticizing the US under a user a handle that’s similar to his name. Federal law enforcement officials are investigating whether he authored the words or just posted them, the AP reports.
The weapon used in the shooting – a Glock 9mm pistol – was legally purchased by Alshamrani somewhere in Florida. DeSantis said he was able to buy the firearm because of a “federal loophole” in gun laws that makes it easy for non-immigrant foreign nationals to purchase weapons in the US.
DeSantis said this detail, in particular, irked him.
“I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment, but it’s so Americans can keep and bear arms, not Saudi Arabians,” he told reporters.
Alshamrani was in Pensacola as part of a program to ‘bolster ties’ between the US military and its allies (apparently, all those arms we sell to the Saudis isn’t enough?). The other Saudis participating in this exchange program have been ordered to remain on the base until the investigation is over.
Of course, if past terror incidents in the US are any guide, if Alshamrani did have help, the Saudi government has presumably swept that evidence under the rug by now.