News and Commentary

Attacker At Florida Military Base Was Member Of Saudi Military, ‘Was An Act Of Terrorism,’ Congressman Says
Florida State Troopers block traffic over the Bayou Grande Bridge leading to the Pensacola Naval Air Station following a shooting on December 06, 2019 in Pensacola, Florida. The second shooting on a U.S. Naval Base in a week has left three dead plus the suspect and seven people wounded.
Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said on Friday that the individual who opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola was a member of the Saudi military and that the attack “was an act of terrorism.”

The foreign national attacker killed at least three people and injured several others who were sent to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Gaetz responded to the attack by calling for “extreme vetting” of those who are allowed into the United States and who train at U.S. military bases.

“Major news organizations are now reporting the information that we began to learn earlier this morning that it was a Saudi Arabian military official in Pensacola, in our community for training, who committed these murderous acts and this terrible, terrible violence at NAS Pensacola,” Gaetz said. “I think it’s important for us to know a little bit about why Saudi Arabian officials are in our community.”

“Training is a critical part of the mission that we engage in in NAS Pensacola,” Gaetz continued. “One way that we leverage that training is to ensure that our allies around the world are capable and familiar with U.S. systems, that they’re comfortable working with U.S. officers, and that we have an interoperability in our lexicon and in the way we engage in battle.”

“This event represents a serious failure in the vetting process and in the way in which we invite these people into our community,” Gaetz continued. “So today, as we learn more as the investigation continues to unfold … I’m going 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 on our bases and in our communities.”

In a subsequent tweet that featured a video of Gaetz appearing on CNN, Gaetz wrote: “This was not a murder. This was an act of terrorism.”

“If this were a murder, it would typically be investigated by NCIS … but this was not a murder,” Gaetz said. “This was an act of terrorism and as we speak the investigation is being handed over from the NCIS to the FBI, that is the signal that this will now be treated by our government as an act of terrorism, not a murder.”

The U.S. Navy confirmed on Twitter that the attacker, who was an aviation student, is dead. noted some of the history surrounding the military base, with respect to past incidents involving terrorism:

In the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, Newsweek reported that three of the hijackers had the addresses on their driver’s licenses listed as being at NAS Pensacola. The article notes that Naval Air Station Pensacola is known as the “Cradle of U.S. Navy Aviation.”

The Navy Times reported in February 2016 that NAS Pensacola officials had increased security measures at the base, after the base had been known was “unusually open” for years.

The Pensacola News Journal reported in September 2019 the “new, top-secret classrooms” had been built on the base to counteract the threat caused by cyber terrorism.

UPDATE: This report has been updated to accurately state that the alleged attacker killed three individuals, not four. The fourth person who was killed was the alleged attacker.