FBI: Shooting probable terrorism act
PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Saudi gunman who killed three people at the Pensacola naval base had apparently gone on Twitter shortly before the shooting to blast U.S. support of Israel and accuse America of being anti-Muslim, a U.S. official said Sunday as the FBI confirmed it is operating on the assumption the attack was an act of terrorism.
Investigators are also trying to establish whether the killer, 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, of the Royal Saudi Air Force, acted alone or was part of a larger plot.
Alshamrani, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the rampage at a classroom building Friday, was undergoing flight training at Pensacola, where members of foreign militaries routinely receive instruction.
“We are, as we do in most active-shooter investigations, working with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism,” said Rachel J. Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Jacksonville.
Authorities believe the gunman made social media posts criticizing the U.S. under a user handle similar to his name, but federal law enforcement officials are investigating whether he authored the words or just posted them, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Also, investigators believe the gunman visited New York City, including Rockefeller Center, days before the shooting and are working to determine the purpose of the trip, the official said.
All foreign students at the Pensacola base have been accounted for, no arrests have been made, and the community is under no immediate threat, Rojas said at a news conference. A Saudi commanding officer has ordered all students from the country to remain at one location at the base, authorities said.
“There are a number of Saudi students who are close to the shooter and continue to cooperate in this investigation,” Rojas said. “The Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation.”
Earlier in the week of the shooting, Alshamrani hosted a dinner party where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, a U.S. official told the AP on Saturday.
Alshamrani used a Glock 9 mm weapon that had been purchased legally in Florida, Rojas said.
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the shooting looked like “terrorism or akin to terrorism.” But he cautioned that the FBI was still investigating.
“Look, to me it appears to be a terrorist attack,” he said. “I don’t want prejudge the investigation, but it appears that this may be someone that was radicalized.” O’Brien said he did not see evidence so far of a “broader plot.”