Attorney General William Barr confirmed on Monday that the deadly shooting carried out by a Saudi aviation student at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December was an “act of terrorism,” during a press conference Monday announcing the FBI’s findings on the case.
Barr said the shooter, Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, was “motivated by jihadist ideology,” including that of deceased Yemeni-American imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the gunman killed after fatally shooting 3 people and wounding 7 others at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force. He is pictured in a photo from his ID card: https://t.co/UI55YEv6Dq pic.twitter.com/zCw5jaRCHb
— Heavy.com (@HeavySan) December 6, 2019
The attorney general also announced that 21 members of the Saudi military training with Americans would be expelled.
“During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on September 11,  stating, ‘the countdown has begun,’” Barr said. “During the Thanksgiving weekend, he then visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City,” Barr continued.
“He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadi messages on social media, including two hours before his attack,” Barr added.
Three sailors were killed and eight wounded in the December 6 attack.
Barr singled out two U.S. Marines — Sgt. Ryan Maisel and Staff Sgt. Samuel Mullins — for their response to the shooting. They were outside the building when they heard the gunfire, and although unarmed, they ran into the building to confront the shooter. Their only weapon was a fire extinguisher that they pulled from a wall as they ran toward the gunfire. Although they were unable to engage with the shooter, they helped save many lives by giving CPR and other urgent medical aid to the victims.
Barr also praised airman Ryan Blackwell who jumped on top of a fellow sailor to keep her from being shot after he had been shot five times. Severely wounded, Blackwell went on to help students escape out a window while taking “additional fire from the shooter.”
According to Fox News, the shooting has “prompted a group of U.S. Navy instructor pilots to ask top military brass for permission to arm themselves.”
One of the shooting victims was the captain of the U.S. Naval Academy rifle team, an “excellent marksman,” according to his brother.
“It’s so stupid that on a military base, the shooter was allowed to roam free for so long,” one instructor pilot told Fox News in December.
Two pilots said the Saudi shooter had 10 minutes to carry out his deadly assault on defenseless Navy sailors at the “API” — aviation pre-flight indoctrination — building.
The attorney general thanked the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for their quick response as Alshamrani was ultimately shot and killed by ECSO deputies.
The attorney general said that Saudi Arabia gave “complete and total” support of the investigation, which helped the Bureau obtain “crucial” information about the case.
While there was no evidence that any of the other members of the Saudi military were directly involved in the attack, the Pentagon is expelling 21 members of the Saudi Arabian military who have been in the United States training with the U.S. military at facilities like NAS Pensacola.
Barr said the cadets were found to have had jihadist material and/or child pornography in their possession.
Barr went on to express frustration that Apple refuses to unlock two iPhones used by the gunman, complaining that the tech giant had provided no “substantive assistance.”
Justice Department officials want to access to Alshamrani’s phones to see if he had messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had acted alone or had accomplices at the Florida base.
“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Barr said, calling on Apple and other tech companies to cooperate more.