Rachel Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office, said at a news briefing that investigators are looking into the matter with “the presumption that this was an act of terrorism.”
The designation “allows us to take advantage of investigative techniques that can help us more quickly identify and then eliminate any additional threats to the rest of our community,” she said, adding that there is no evidence of other threats to the community.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien, in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Dec. 8, said that it “appears to be a terrorist attack,” echoing Rojas’s comments. “I don’t want to prejudge the investigation, but it appears that this may be someone that was radicalized, whether it was here, or it’s unclear if he’s got any other ties to other organizations,” O’Brien said.
The shooting suspect was identified by the FBI as 21-year-old Mohammed Alshamrani, who was in the Royal Saudi Air Force and was a student naval flight officer of Naval Aviation Schools Command.
Days before the shooting, Alshamrani hosted a dinner party where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, another U.S. official told The Associated Press on Dec. 7.
Alshamrani opened fire inside a classroom at the base, killing three people and wounding two sheriff’s deputies, one in the arm and one in the knee, before one of the deputies killed him. Eight others were also hurt. Both deputies are expected to survive.
Ten Saudi students were being held on the base Dec. 7 as part of the investigation, the official said.
Speaking to Fox News on Dec. 8, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he wasn’t sure whether the shooting was an act of terror.
“I don’t know yet. I think that’s why it’s important to allow the investigation to proceed, to understand exactly what he was doing and why,” he said, adding that he called on officials to “begin a review of what our screening procedures are with regard to foreign nationals coming into the United States.” At the same time, he emphasized the need to maintain programs where foreign individuals come to train with U.S. forces.
Following the shooting, President Donald Trump said Dec. 6 that he had spoken with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Al-Saud.
“King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.