NAS PENSACOLA — The mass shooting incident Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola that left the shooter and three other people dead has been labeled “an act of terrorism” by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., whose Northwest Florida district includes NAS Pensacola, Eglin Air Force Base and a number of other military installations.
The shooter, who was shot by Escambia County sheriff’s deputies about an hour after the incident was reported at 7 a.m., was a Saudi aviation student, according to an Associated Press report quoting an unnamed “U.S. official” that also noted authorities are looking at the incident as a possible terrorism incident.
“This was not a murder,” Gaetz said via Twitter early Friday afternoon. “This was an act of terrorism.”
Gaetz posted a video statement on Twitter early Friday afternoon reacting to the news that a Saudi Arabian flight student reportedly was the shooter at NAS Pensacola.
Noting that his office had begun learning earlier Friday that a Saudi Arabian student was the shooter, Gaetz said, “I think it’s important for us to know a little bit about why Saudi Arabian military officials are in our community” for aviation training.
We’re learning a Saudi Arabian military member in Pensacola committed these murders.
I’m working with the @DeptofDefense, @StateDept, and @DHSgov to ensure there’s extreme vetting for people who come to our country and train on our bases. pic.twitter.com/LUhSE6UAHO
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) December 6, 2019
“One way we leverage that training is to try to ensure that our allies around the world are capable and familiar with U.S. systems, that they are comfortable working with U.S. officers, and that we have an interoperability” to facilitate joint operations, the congressman continued.
“Saudi Arabia has long sent people to Northwest Florida for this purpose. Many of them have gone on to work right alongside our warfighters in the Middle East and around the world.”
“But,” Gaetz added, “this event demonstrates a serious failure in the vetting process, and in the way in which we invite these people to our community.”
Gaetz pledged to be “very active” in working with the Department of Defense and the Department of State to ensure “that we have extreme vetting for the people that come into our country to train on our bases and in our communities … .”
In a separate Friday video statement issued prior to the AP report, Gaetz said his office was receiving reports that the shooting occurred at the NAS Pensacola aviation schoolhouse in the center of the installation’s campus.
Elsewhere among Florida’s congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said via Twitter that he had reached out to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Attorney Ashley Moody, and Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson to offer assistance.
Reached out to @GovRonDeSantis, @AshleyMoodyFL & @PensacolaMayor to offer any assistance they need as investigations are ongoing.
Florida has great leaders and together we will do everything we can for the people of Pensacola, the victims and their families. https://t.co/leW5tdzcyP
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 6, 2019
I'm very concerned that the shooter in Pensacola was a foreign national training on a US base.
Today, I’m calling for a full review of the US military programs to train foreign nationals on American soil. We shouldn't be providing military training to people who wish us harm. pic.twitter.com/JkypdikYI9
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 6, 2019
Meanwhile, Eglin Air Force Base was operating under normal security procedures Friday as the active shooter situation continued at NAS Pensacola, 50 miles to the west.
At Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command, spokeswoman Amy Nicholson said the installation, like Eglin, was not taking any additional security steps as a result of the active shooter incident at NAS Pensacola.
“We are continuing our current force protection posture,” Nicholson said in an email.
Also according to Nicholson, the active shooter situation at NAS Pensacola was not expected to affect Friday’s memorial service for Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron airman who is missing and presumed dead following a Nov. 5 parachuting accident over the Gulf of Mexico.
“As of right now, (there is) zero impact to memorial services today,” Nicholson said in the email, sent shortly before 9 a.m. Friday.
The latest: Four dead (including the shooter), 8 additional taken to hospital injured https://t.co/uelrNtULs8
— Annie Blanks (@AnniePNJ) December 6, 2019
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