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Westlake Legal Group > mass shootings

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

Mr. Alshamrani warned on last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that “the countdown has begun” and posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist social media messages, some within hours of attacking the base, Mr. Barr said. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Mr. Barr said.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

Mr. Barr focused attention on the Justice Department’s fight on advanced encryption and other digital security measures by taking aim at Apple, which has long touted security as a major feature of its phones. In 2014, Apple started building encryption into iPhones that can be unlocked only with the device’s password or a fingerprint reader, and said that it cannot bypass the security.

The technology has frustrated law enforcement officials, who accuse Apple of providing a safe haven for criminals. Justice Department officials said that they need access to Mr. Alshamrani’s phones to see data and messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had discussed his plans with others at the base and whether he was acting alone or with help.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. But it will not back down from its unequivocal support of encryption that is impossible to crack, people close to the company said.

Apple has argued that obtaining data from phones themselves would require it to build a backdoor, which it said would set a dangerous precedent for user privacy and cybersecurity. Cracking one phone would compromise the security of all Apple devices, company executives have warned, saying that if it were to develop a way to crack into one phone, law enforcement officials would demand they use it repeatedly.

Mr. Barr indicated that he is ready for a sharp fight. “We don’t want to get into a world where we have to spend months and even years exhausting efforts when lives are in the balance,” he said. “We should be able to get in when we have a warrant that establishes that criminal activity is underway.”

The confrontation echoed the legal standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I. in its efforts to search his device, setting off a fight over whether privacy enabled by impossible-to-crack encryption harmed public safety.

The San Bernardino dispute was resolved when the F.B.I. found a private company to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. Tensions between the two sides, however, remained, and Apple worked to ensure that neither the government nor private contractors could open its phones.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_148837677_1d3236be-faea-495e-826d-044bcd487a4b-articleLarge Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces San Bernardino, Calif, Shooting (2015) Privacy Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting (2019) mass shootings Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Computer Security Barr, William P Apple Inc Alshamrani, Mohammed Saeed

An Apple billboard displayed the company’s stance on privacy in Las Vegas this month.Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Justice Department officials have long pushed for a legislative solution to the problem of “going dark,” law enforcement’s term for how increasingly secure phones have made it harder to solve crimes, and the Pensacola investigation gives them a prominent chance to make their case. Mr. Barr said that Trump administration officials have again begun discussing a legislative fix.

But the F.B.I. has been bruised by Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that former officials plotted to undercut his presidency and by a major inspector general’s report last month that revealed serious errors with aspects of the Russia investigation. A broad bipartisan consensus among lawmakers allowing the bureau to broaden its surveillance authorities is most likely elusive, though some lawmakers singled out Apple for its refusal to change its stance.

“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to shield criminals and terrorists from lawful efforts to solve crimes and protect our citizens,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said in a statement. “Apple has a notorious history of siding with terrorists over law enforcement. I hope in this case they’ll change course and actually work with the F.B.I.”

Apple typically complies with court orders to turn over information on its servers and has given investigators materials from Mr. Alshamrani’s iCloud account but said that it would turn over only the data it had, implying that it would not work to unlock the phones.

Investigators secured a court order within a day of the shooting allowing them to search the phones, Mr. Barr said. He turned up the pressure on Apple a week after the F.B.I.’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, asked the company for help searching Mr. Alshamrani’s iPhones.

Officials said that the F.B.I. is still trying to access the phones on its own and approached Apple only after asking other government agencies, foreign governments and third-party technology vendors for help, to no avail.

The devices were older models: an iPhone 7 with a fingerprint reader and an iPhone 5, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Justice Department officials said that investigators have yet to make a final determination about whether Mr. Alshamrani conspired with others. They said that Saudi government was offering “unprecedented” cooperation but that “we need to get into those phones.”

Mr. Barr and other law enforcement officials described a 15-minute shootout before security officers shot Mr. Alshamrani to death. During the firefight, Mr. Alshamrani paused at one point to shoot one of his phones once, Mr. Barr said, adding that his other phone was also damaged but that the F.B.I. was able to repair them well enough to be searched.

Mr. Alshamrani also shot at photographs of President Trump and one of his predecessors, Mr. Bowdich said. A person familiar with the investigation identified the unnamed president as George W. Bush.

His weapon was lawfully purchased in Florida under an exemption that allows nonimmigrant visa holders to purchase firearms if they have a valid hunting license or permit, officials said.

Law enforcement officials have continued to discuss Mr. Alshamrani’s phones with Apple, they said.

“We’re not trying to weaken encryption, to be clear,” David Bowdich, the deputy director of the F.B.I., said at the news conference, noting that the issue has come up with thousands of devices that investigators want to see in other cases.

“We talk about this on a daily basis,” he said. Mr. Bowdich was the bureau’s top agent overseeing the San Bernardino investigation and was part of the effort to push Apple to crack into the phone in that case.

But much has also changed for Apple in the years since Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, excoriated the Obama administration publicly and privately in 2014 for attacking strong encryption. Obama officials who were upset by Apple’s stance on privacy, along with its decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and make its products almost exclusively in China, aired those grievances quietly.

Now Apple is fighting the Trump administration, and President Trump has shown far more willingness to publicly criticize companies and public figures. When he recently claimed falsely that Apple had opened a manufacturing plant in Texas at his behest, the company remained silent rather than correct him.

At the same time, Apple has financially benefited more under Mr. Trump than under President Barack Obama. It reaped a windfall from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and Mr. Trump said he might shield Apple from the country’s tariff war with China.

He had said last month that finding a way for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted technology was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

Mr. Alshamrani, who was killed at the scene of the attack, came to the United States in 2017 and soon started strike-fighter training in Florida. Investigators believe he may have been influenced by extremists as early as 2015.

Mr. Barr also refuted reports that other Saudi trainees had known of and recorded video of the shooting. Mr. Alshamrani arrived at the scene by himself and others in the area began recording the commotion only after he had opened fire, Mr. Barr said. They and other Saudi cadets cooperated with the inquiry, he added.

Jack Nicas contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

Mr. Alshamrani warned on last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that “the countdown has begun” and posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist social media messages, some within hours of attacking the base, Mr. Barr said. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Mr. Barr said.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

Mr. Barr focused attention on the Justice Department’s fight on advanced encryption and other digital security measures by taking aim at Apple, which has long touted security as a major feature of its phones. In 2014, Apple started building encryption into iPhones that can be unlocked only with the device’s password or a fingerprint reader, and said that it cannot bypass the security.

The technology has frustrated law enforcement officials, who accuse Apple of providing a safe haven for criminals. Justice Department officials said that they need access to Mr. Alshamrani’s phones to see data and messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had discussed his plans with others at the base and whether he was acting alone or with help.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. But it will not back down from its unequivocal support of encryption that is impossible to crack, people close to the company said.

Apple has argued that obtaining data from phones themselves would require it to build a backdoor, which it said would set a dangerous precedent for user privacy and cybersecurity. Cracking one phone would compromise the security of all Apple devices, company executives have warned, saying that if it were to develop a way to crack into one phone, law enforcement officials would demand they use it repeatedly.

Mr. Barr indicated that he is ready for a sharp fight. “We don’t want to get into a world where we have to spend months and even years exhausting efforts when lives are in the balance,” he said. “We should be able to get in when we have a warrant that establishes that criminal activity is underway.”

The confrontation echoed the legal standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I. in its efforts to search his device, setting off a fight over whether privacy enabled by impossible-to-crack encryption harmed public safety.

The San Bernardino dispute was resolved when the F.B.I. found a private company to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. Tensions between the two sides, however, remained, and Apple worked to ensure that neither the government nor private contractors could open its phones.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_148837677_1d3236be-faea-495e-826d-044bcd487a4b-articleLarge Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces San Bernardino, Calif, Shooting (2015) Privacy Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting (2019) mass shootings Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Computer Security Barr, William P Apple Inc Alshamrani, Mohammed Saeed

An Apple billboard displayed the company’s stance on privacy in Las Vegas this month.Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Justice Department officials have long pushed for a legislative solution to the problem of “going dark,” law enforcement’s term for how increasingly secure phones have made it harder to solve crimes, and the Pensacola investigation gives them a prominent chance to make their case. Mr. Barr said that Trump administration officials have again begun discussing a legislative fix.

But the F.B.I. has been bruised by Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that former officials plotted to undercut his presidency and by a major inspector general’s report last month that revealed serious errors with aspects of the Russia investigation. A broad bipartisan consensus among lawmakers allowing the bureau to broaden its surveillance authorities is most likely elusive, though some lawmakers singled out Apple for its refusal to change its stance.

“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to shield criminals and terrorists from lawful efforts to solve crimes and protect our citizens,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said in a statement. “Apple has a notorious history of siding with terrorists over law enforcement. I hope in this case they’ll change course and actually work with the F.B.I.”

Apple typically complies with court orders to turn over information on its servers and has given investigators materials from Mr. Alshamrani’s iCloud account but said that it would turn over only the data it had, implying that it would not work to unlock the phones.

Investigators secured a court order within a day of the shooting allowing them to search the phones, Mr. Barr said. He turned up the pressure on Apple a week after the F.B.I.’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, asked the company for help searching Mr. Alshamrani’s iPhones.

Officials said that the F.B.I. is still trying to access the phones on its own and approached Apple only after asking other government agencies, foreign governments and third-party technology vendors for help, to no avail.

The devices were older models: an iPhone 7 with a fingerprint reader and an iPhone 5, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Justice Department officials said that investigators have yet to make a final determination about whether Mr. Alshamrani conspired with others. They said that Saudi government was offering “unprecedented” cooperation but that “we need to get into those phones.”

Mr. Barr and other law enforcement officials described a 15-minute shootout before security officers shot Mr. Alshamrani to death. During the firefight, Mr. Alshamrani paused at one point to shoot one of his phones once, Mr. Barr said, adding that his other phone was also damaged but that the F.B.I. was able to repair them well enough to be searched.

Mr. Alshamrani also shot at photographs of President Trump and one of his predecessors, Mr. Bowdich said. A person familiar with the investigation identified the unnamed president as George W. Bush.

His weapon was lawfully purchased in Florida under an exemption that allows nonimmigrant visa holders to purchase firearms if they have a valid hunting license or permit, officials said.

Law enforcement officials have continued to discuss Mr. Alshamrani’s phones with Apple, they said.

“We’re not trying to weaken encryption, to be clear,” David Bowdich, the deputy director of the F.B.I., said at the news conference, noting that the issue has come up with thousands of devices that investigators want to see in other cases.

“We talk about this on a daily basis,” he said. Mr. Bowdich was the bureau’s top agent overseeing the San Bernardino investigation and was part of the effort to push Apple to crack into the phone in that case.

But much has also changed for Apple in the years since Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, excoriated the Obama administration publicly and privately in 2014 for attacking strong encryption. Obama officials who were upset by Apple’s stance on privacy, along with its decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and make its products almost exclusively in China, aired those grievances quietly.

Now Apple is fighting the Trump administration, and President Trump has shown far more willingness to publicly criticize companies and public figures. When he recently claimed falsely that Apple had opened a manufacturing plant in Texas at his behest, the company remained silent rather than correct him.

At the same time, Apple has financially benefited more under Mr. Trump than under President Barack Obama. It reaped a windfall from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and Mr. Trump said he might shield Apple from the country’s tariff war with China.

He had said last month that finding a way for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted technology was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

Mr. Alshamrani, who was killed at the scene of the attack, came to the United States in 2017 and soon started strike-fighter training in Florida. Investigators believe he may have been influenced by extremists as early as 2015.

Mr. Barr also refuted reports that other Saudi trainees had known of and recorded video of the shooting. Mr. Alshamrani arrived at the scene by himself and others in the area began recording the commotion only after he had opened fire, Mr. Barr said. They and other Saudi cadets cooperated with the inquiry, he added.

Jack Nicas contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock iPhones of Pensacola Gunman

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-justice-sub-facebookJumbo Barr Asks Apple to Unlock iPhones of Pensacola Gunman United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces San Bernardino, Calif, Shooting (2015) Privacy Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting (2019) mass shootings Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Computer Security Apple Inc

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on Apple and other technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple has provided no “substantive assistance.”

Apple has given investigators materials from the iCloud account of the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi air force training with the American military, who killed three sailors and wounded eight others on Dec. 6. But the company has refused to help the F.B.I. open the phones themselves, which would undermine its claims that its phones are secure.

Justice Department officials said that they need access to Mr. Alshamrani’s phones to see messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had discussed his plans with others at the base and whether he was acting alone or with help.

“The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Mr. Barr said, citing a message that Mr. Alshamrani posted on last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks warning that “the countdown has begun.” He also visited the 9/11 memorial in New York over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mr. Alshamrani also posted anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist messages on social media, including just two hours before he attacked the base, Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr turned up the pressure on Apple a week after the F.B.I.’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, asked the company for help searching Mr. Alshamrani’s iPhones. Apple said that it would turn over only the data it had, implying that it would not work to unlock the phones and hand over the private data on them.

Apple’s stance set the company on a collision course with a Justice Department that has grown increasingly critical of encryption that makes it impossible for law enforcement to search devices or wiretap phone calls.

The confrontation echoed the legal standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I. in its efforts to search his device, setting off a fight over whether privacy that was enabled by impossible-to-crack encryption harmed public safety.

As in the investigation into the Pensacola shooting, the San Bernardino gunman, Syed Rizwan Farook, was also dead and no longer had a right to privacy. In both cases, law enforcement officials worked to piece together a clear motive and any ties to extremist groups.

The San Bernardino dispute was resolved when the F.B.I. found a private company to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. Tensions between the two sides, however, remained; and Apple worked to ensure that neither the government nor private contractors could open its phones.

Mr. Alshamrani’s phones are also of interest because he tried to destroy them at some point before he began firing, according to a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Justice Department officials have long pushed for a legislative solution to the problem of “going dark,” law enforcement’s term for how increasingly secure phones have made it harder to solve crimes, and the Pensacola investigation gives them a prominent chance to make their case.

But the F.B.I. has been bruised by Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that former officials plotted to undercut his presidency and by a major inspector general’s report last month that revealed serious errors with aspects of the Russia investigation. A broad bipartisan consensus among lawmakers allowing the bureau to broaden its surveillance authorities is most likely elusive.

But much has also changed for Apple in the years since Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, excoriated the Obama administration publicly and privately in 2014 for attacking strong encryption. Obama officials who were upset by Apple’s stance on privacy, along with its decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and make its products almost exclusively in China, aired those grievances quietly.

Now Apple is fighting the Trump administration, and President Trump has shown far more willingness to publicly criticize companies and public figures. When he recently claimed falsely that Apple had opened a manufacturing plant in Texas at his behest, the company stayed remained silent rather than correct him.

At the same time, Apple has financially benefited more under Mr. Trump than under President Barack Obama. It reaped a windfall from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and Mr. Trump said he might shield Apple from the country’s tariff war with China.

Even so, people close to the company say that Apple will not back down from its unequivocal support of encryption that is impossible to crack.

Mr. Barr indicated on Monday that he is ready for a sharp fight.

He had said last month that finding a way for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted technology was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

Mr. Alshamrani, who was killed at the scene of the attack, came to the United States in 2017 and soon started strike-fighter training in Florida. Investigators believe he may have been influenced by extremists as early as 2015.

The investigation into the shooting also found that some Saudi students training with the American military in Pensacola had ties to extremist movements while others possessed pornography, which is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. About a dozen trainees will be sent back to Saudi Arabia as a result.

Investigators have not found evidence to suggest that any of those students knew about Mr. Alshamrani’s contact with extremist groups or his mass shooting plan.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Texas Church Shooting: 2 Dead and 1 Critically Wounded in White Settlement

Westlake Legal Group 29xp-churchshooting2-facebookJumbo Texas Church Shooting: 2 Dead and 1 Critically Wounded in White Settlement West Freeway Church of Christ Sutherland Springs, Tex, Shooting (2017) Pittsburgh, Pa, Shooting (2018) Murders, Attempted Murders and Homicides mass shootings Fort Worth (Tex) Deaths (Fatalities) Churches (Buildings)

FORT WORTH — A gunman opened fire at a church in Texas on Sunday, killing one person and critically wounding another before a member of church security fatally shot him, the authorities and a witness said.

An elder at the church, West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, near Fort Worth, said a security team member was killed.

“He was trying to do what he needed to do to protect the rest of us,” the elder, Mike Tinius, said of the security member who died.

“It’s extremely upsetting to see anyone committing violence,” he added.

Mr. Tinius said there were multiple trained people on the security team..

“This is quite obviously to us a random act that is disturbing,” Mr. Tinius said. “We are continuing to hold on to what we believe — that doesn’t change.”

He declined to identify the victims.

Hours after the shooting, police cars surrounded the church while a helicopter hovered overhead and people leaned over yellow police tape at a nearby Waffle House. Officers brought packages of bottled water as federal agents huddled in conversation.

Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said that his department sent multiple units to the scene, and that the sense of urgency was “multiplied a thousand times being in a church.”

“We’re thankful it wasn’t worse. They potentially saved a lot of lives,” he said, referring to the church’s security team.

The gunman was one of the two people who were killed, Macara Trusty, a spokeswoman for MedStar Mobile Healthcare, an ambulance provider, said. Another person was taken to a hospital in critical condition, she said.

Two other people were treated for minor injuries at the scene, she said.

The White Settlement church says on its website that visitors can “expect a worship assembly based on the New Testament,” including “a cappella singing, reading the Scripture, praying, and a biblically based sermon.”

The police received reports of shots fired at about 10 a.m., Mike Drivdahl, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department, said. Off-duty officers down the street quickly responded and found an active shooting scene, Mr. Drivdahl said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter that it was sending agents to the scene.

Ethan Barnhart, 26, said he was in his apartment, which faces the church’s back entrance, when the shooting happened. When he heard sirens, he went outside and saw multiple police agencies, fire department units and ambulances. The road in front of the church was shut down, he said.

“I did not see or hear anything since it all happened inside the church,” Mr. Barnhart said. “Just sirens.”

“Places of worship are meant to be sacred, and I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life,” Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said in a statement on Sunday.

The New York Police Department and its Counterterrorism Bureau said on Twitter that they were monitoring developments in the church shooting. The department was already stepping up patrols after reports of eight anti-Semitic attacks in the city in the last two weeks.

On Saturday night, in Monsey, N.Y., in Rockland County, a man with a large knife burst into the home of a Hasidic rabbi, stabbing and wounding five people.

Churches and other houses of worship have been scenes of violence before.

In 1999, a gunman killed seven people and himself at a Baptist church in Fort Worth.

In 2017, a gunman clad in all black, and with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire at a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people.

In 2018, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others, the authorities said.

And in April a gunman entered a California synagogue and opened fire, killing a 60-year-old woman and wounding three others.

A Texas bill that took effect in September allows licensed handgun owners to carry those weapons in churches, synagogues and other places of worship.

Patrick McGee reported from Fort Worth, and Jason M. Bailey and Mihir Zaveri from New York. Mariel Padilla, Christopher Mele and Vanessa Swales contributed reporting from New York, and Dave Montgomery from Austin, Texas.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Shooting at Texas Church Leaves at Least 2 Dead and 1 Critically Wounded, Officials Say

Westlake Legal Group 29xp-churchshooting-facebookJumbo-v2 Shooting at Texas Church Leaves at Least 2 Dead and 1 Critically Wounded, Officials Say West Freeway Church of Christ Sutherland Springs, Tex, Shooting (2017) Pittsburgh, Pa, Shooting (2018) Murders, Attempted Murders and Homicides mass shootings Fort Worth (Tex) Deaths (Fatalities) Churches (Buildings)

A shooting at a church in Texas on Sunday left at least two people dead and one person critically wounded, the authorities said.

An elder at the church, West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, near Fort Worth, said the gunman had killed a member of the church’s security team before being shot by another member of security.

“He was trying to do what he needed to do to protect the rest of us,” the elder, Mike Tinius, said of the security member who was killed, calling him a dear friend.

“It’s extremely upsetting to see anyone committing violence,” he added.

Mr. Tinius said that the gunman was not known to the congregation, and that the church appeared to be a target simply because it was a building filled with people.

He said the shooting had happened near the beginning of the service.

“This is quite obviously to us a random act that is disturbing,” Mr. Tinius said. “We are continuing to hold on to what we believe — that doesn’t change.”

Mr. Tinius said there were multiple trained people on the security team.

The gunman was believed to be one of the two people who were killed, said Macara Trusty, a spokeswoman for MedStar Mobile Healthcare, an ambulance provider. Another person was taken to a hospital in critical condition, she said.

Two other people were treated for minor injuries at the scene, she said.

The police received reports of shots fired at about 10 a.m., Mike Drivdahl, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department, said. Off-duty officers down the street quickly responded and found an active shooting scene, Mr. Drivdahl said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter that it was sending agents to the scene.

Ethan Barnhart, 26, said he was in his apartment, which faces the church’s back entrance, when the shooting happened. When he heard sirens, he went outside and saw multiple police agencies, fire department units and ambulances. The road in front of the church was shut down, he said.

“I did not see or hear anything since it all happened inside the church,” Mr. Barnhart said. “Just sirens.”

Churches and other houses of worship have been scenes of violence before.

In 1999, a gunman killed seven people and himself at a Baptist church in Fort Worth.

In 2017, a gunman clad in all black, and with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire at a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people.

In 2018, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others, the authorities said.

And in April a gunman entered a California synagogue and opened fire with an A.R. 15-style weapon, killing a 60-year-old woman and wounding three others.

The White Settlement church says on its website that visitors can “expect a worship assembly based on the New Testament,” including “a cappella singing, reading the Scripture, praying, and a biblically based sermon.”

Mihir Zaveri and Christopher Mele contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Saudi Linked to Florida Shooting Probed for Terrorism. He Had Clashed with Instructor.

The investigation into the fatal shooting last week at a Navy training center in Florida was officially characterized as a terrorism inquiry on Sunday, as new details emerged about the Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three sailors on the base where he was a visiting student.

As the F.B.I. continues to conduct interviews with everyone at the Pensacola Naval Air Station who may have had contact with the gunman, identified as Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, a new report emerged that the Saudi trainee filed a formal complaint earlier this year against one of his instructors, who left him “infuriated” in class by tagging him with a derogatory nickname.

The complaint, quoted in a communication circulated among people connected to the flight training, said that the instructor referred to Lieutenant Alshamrani as “Porn Stash” in front of about 10 other aviation students, embarrassing and angering him.

”I was infuriated as to why he would say that in front of the class,” the Saudi trainee wrote in his complaint, as quoted in the summary. The document was reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by a person who spoke with Lieutenant Alshamrani shortly after the incident.

The F.B.I. declined to comment on the April incident, and the special agent in charge of the agency’s Jacksonville office, Rachel Rojas, said on Sunday that investigators are still searching for a motive for the Friday morning attack. There has been nothing to suggest that the classroom incident had any connection to the shooting, which did not occur until more than seven months later.

Yet little is known of Lieutenant Alshamrani’s life in Florida during his months as a trainee, and the incident in April appears to have been upsetting enough that two American students in the class helped him file his complaint, according to the person who spoke with him about it.

Lieutenant Alshamrani reported that the confrontation came at the end of a meteorology class, when the instructor, James Day, asked whether students had any questions before he dismissed them.

The instructor then turned to Lieutenant Alshamrani and asked whether he had any questions, addressing him as “Porn Stash” — spelled that way in the complaint — in an apparent reference to the mustache of a porn actor.

“Laughing, he continued to ask, ‘What? Have you not seen a porn star before?’” the lieutenant wrote in his complaint, according to the summary. “After I did not respond, he just let go of the subject.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 08gunman3-popup Saudi Linked to Florida Shooting Probed for Terrorism. He Had Clashed with Instructor. United States Defense and Military Forces PENSACOLA, Fla. Naval Air Station Pensacola Military Bases and Installations mass shootings International Study and Teaching Foreign Students (in US) Florida Federal Bureau of Investigation Day, James Alshamrani, Mohammed Saeed

Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, in an undated photo. Credit…Federal Bureau of Investigation, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Brian Busey, the president of the company that employs Mr. Day, Delaware Resource Group of Oklahoma, declined to discuss details of the classroom incident, but said the company had dealt with the matter in April. He said the company was cooperating with the F.B.I.’s investigation into the shooting.

“Appropriate personnel action was taken regarding the incident in question, corrective action was taken, the matter was closed back in April, and we have no further comment,” Mr. Busey said.

Mr. Day also declined, through Mr. Busey, to comment. Officials at the Navy base referred questions to the F.B.I., which also did not comment.

“We are unable to confirm this type of information due to the active and ongoing investigation,” Amanda Warford Videll, a spokeswoman for the bureau’s Jacksonville office, said in a statement.

Separately, F.B.I. officials said they are continuing to conduct interviews with anyone who may have had contact with the gunman, who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy at the scene of the attack. They said they are operating on the assumption that he acted alone.

More details have emerged about the gunman’s actions in the days leading up to the shooting.

The night before the attack, Lieutenant Alshamrani showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Days earlier, he and three other Saudi military trainees were in New York City, visiting several museums and Rockefeller Center. There has been no indication that the trip was more than a sightseeing tour.

Still, several dozen F.B.I. agents and New York Police Department detectives have been working to learn everything they can about the visit, which lasted for about four days, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The agents and detectives have been tracing their movements through credit cards, surveillance video and other means, the person said.

It was not clear whether the April classroom incident will play any role in the investigation.

According to the communication describing the encounter, Lieutenant Alshamrani was visibly upset and reported what happened to managers of CAE USA, which provides instruction to civil and military aviation students. (Delaware Resource Group is a subcontractor to CAE.) The American student who helped the lieutenant draft the complaint was one of two who accompanied him when he went to file it, according to the person who spoke with the Saudi trainee about the complaint.

The CAE managers offered to have the instructor apologize, but Lieutenant Alshamrani turned that offer down, and instead spoke to the naval office that oversees international students, the person said.

Several government employees thought that disciplinary action should be taken against Mr. Day, but he continued to instruct students, the person said. About a week after the incident in April, Lieutenant Alshamrani was paired with Mr. Day for simulated flight training, according to a schedule reviewed by The Times. He again complained to CAE managers, and the session was canceled and rescheduled with a different instructor, the person said.

As part of a terrorism investigation, federal authorities will also be attempting to determine whether there was a political or ideological motive behind the shooting.

The SITE Intelligence Group has flagged a Twitter account that it believes is connected to the gunman, with a posting shortly before the attack that was critical of America’s support for Israel, as well as the “invasion” of other countries by United States troops. The statement, which quoted Osama bin Laden, accused the United States of “committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity.”

Lieutenant Alshamrani began training with the United States military in August 2017 and was scheduled to complete the training in August 2020, Pentagon officials said. He initially attended language school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He spent breaks back home in Saudi Arabia. When he returned to the United States in February, friends and colleagues noticed that he had become more religious, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on “Fox News Sunday” that the Pentagon would review screening procedures for foreigners on American military bases but would maintain the training programs.

“The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us,” he said. “We have something that our potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, don’t have.”

Mr. Esper confirmed that several friends of the gunman were detained during the military’s investigation of the shooting, and said that of those who were detained, “some one or two were filming” the shooting.

“I’m not trying to pass a judgment on this,” Mr. Esper said. “Today, people pull out their phones and film everything and anything that happens.”

Contributing reporting were Frances Robles, Patricia Mazzei, Eric Schmitt, Adam Goldman, Chris Cameron and William K. Rashbaum. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Pensacola Gunman Said to Have Fumed Over Instructor Months Before Shooting

The investigation into the fatal shooting last week at a Navy training center in Florida was officially characterized as a terrorism inquiry on Sunday, as new details emerged about the Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three sailors on the base where he was a visiting student.

As the F.B.I. continues to conduct interviews with everyone at the Pensacola Naval Air Station who may have had contact with the gunman, identified as Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, a new report emerged that the Saudi trainee filed a formal complaint earlier this year against one of his instructors, who left him “infuriated” in class by tagging him with a derogatory nickname.

The complaint, quoted in a communication circulated among people connected to the flight training, said that the instructor referred to Lieutenant Alshamrani as “Porn Stash” in front of about 10 other aviation students, embarrassing and angering him.

”I was infuriated as to why he would say that in front of the class,” the Saudi trainee wrote in his complaint, as quoted in the summary. The document was reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by a person who spoke with Lieutenant Alshamrani shortly after the incident.

The F.B.I. declined to comment on the April incident, and the special agent in charge of the agency’s Jacksonville office, Rachel Rojas, said on Sunday that investigators are still searching for a motive for the Friday morning attack. There has been nothing to suggest that the classroom incident had any connection to the shooting, which did not occur until more than seven months later.

Yet little is known of Lieutenant Alshamrani’s life in Florida during his months as a trainee, and the incident in April appears to have been upsetting enough that two American students in the class helped him file his complaint, according to the person who spoke with him about it.

Lieutenant Alshamrani reported that the confrontation came at the end of a meteorology class, when the instructor, James Day, asked whether students had any questions before he dismissed them.

The instructor then turned to Lieutenant Alshamrani and asked whether he had any questions, addressing him as “Porn Stash” — spelled that way in the complaint — in an apparent reference to the mustache of a porn actor.

“Laughing, he continued to ask, ‘What? Have you not seen a porn star before?’” the lieutenant wrote in his complaint, according to the summary. “After I did not respond, he just let go of the subject.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 08gunman3-popup Pensacola Gunman Said to Have Fumed Over Instructor Months Before Shooting United States Defense and Military Forces PENSACOLA, Fla. Naval Air Station Pensacola Military Bases and Installations mass shootings International Study and Teaching Foreign Students (in US) Florida Federal Bureau of Investigation Day, James Alshamrani, Mohammed Saeed

Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, in an undated photo. Credit…Federal Bureau of Investigation, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Brian Busey, the president of the company that employs Mr. Day, Delaware Resource Group of Oklahoma, declined to discuss details of the classroom incident, but said the company had dealt with the matter in April. He said the company was cooperating with the F.B.I.’s investigation into the shooting.

“Appropriate personnel action was taken regarding the incident in question, corrective action was taken, the matter was closed back in April, and we have no further comment,” Mr. Busey said.

Mr. Day also declined, through Mr. Busey, to comment. Officials at the Navy base referred questions to the F.B.I., which also did not comment.

“We are unable to confirm this type of information due to the active and ongoing investigation,” Amanda Warford Videll, a spokeswoman for the bureau’s Jacksonville office, said in a statement.

Separately, F.B.I. officials said they are continuing to conduct interviews with anyone who may have had contact with the gunman, who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy at the scene of the attack. They said they are operating on the assumption that he acted alone.

More details have emerged about the gunman’s actions in the days leading up to the shooting.

The night before the attack, Lieutenant Alshamrani showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Days earlier, he and three other Saudi military trainees were in New York City, visiting several museums and Rockefeller Center. There has been no indication that the trip was more than a sightseeing tour.

Still, several dozen F.B.I. agents and New York Police Department detectives have been working to learn everything they can about the visit, which lasted for about four days, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The agents and detectives have been tracing their movements through credit cards, surveillance video and other means, the person said.

It was not clear whether the April classroom incident will play any role in the investigation.

According to the communication describing the encounter, Lieutenant Alshamrani was visibly upset and reported what happened to managers of CAE USA, which provides instruction to civil and military aviation students. (Delaware Resource Group is a subcontractor to CAE.) The American student who helped the lieutenant draft the complaint was one of two who accompanied him when he went to file it, according to the person who spoke with the Saudi trainee about the complaint.

The CAE managers offered to have the instructor apologize, but Lieutenant Alshamrani turned that offer down, and instead spoke to the naval office that oversees international students, the person said.

Several government employees thought that disciplinary action should be taken against Mr. Day, but he continued to instruct students, the person said. About a week after the incident in April, Lieutenant Alshamrani was paired with Mr. Day for simulated flight training, according to a schedule reviewed by The Times. He again complained to CAE managers, and the session was canceled and rescheduled with a different instructor, the person said.

As part of a terrorism investigation, federal authorities will also be attempting to determine whether there was a political or ideological motive behind the shooting.

The SITE Intelligence Group has flagged a Twitter account that it believes is connected to the gunman, with a posting shortly before the attack that was critical of America’s support for Israel, as well as the “invasion” of other countries by United States troops. The statement, which quoted Osama bin Laden, accused the United States of “committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity.”

Lieutenant Alshamrani began training with the United States military in August 2017 and was scheduled to complete the training in August 2020, Pentagon officials said. He initially attended language school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He spent breaks back home in Saudi Arabia. When he returned to the United States in February, friends and colleagues noticed that he had become more religious, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on “Fox News Sunday” that the Pentagon would review screening procedures for foreigners on American military bases but would maintain the training programs.

“The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us,” he said. “We have something that our potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, don’t have.”

Mr. Esper confirmed that several friends of the gunman were detained during the military’s investigation of the shooting, and said that of those who were detained, “some one or two were filming” the shooting.

“I’m not trying to pass a judgment on this,” Mr. Esper said. “Today, people pull out their phones and film everything and anything that happens.”

Contributing reporting were Frances Robles, Patricia Mazzei, Eric Schmitt, Adam Goldman, Chris Cameron and William K. Rashbaum. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Before Florida Shooting, Gunman Showed Off Videos of Mass Attacks

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165577704_9884f4b8-2718-4cd6-ac57-c6357e3799cb-facebookJumbo Before Florida Shooting, Gunman Showed Off Videos of Mass Attacks United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces PENSACOLA, Fla. mass shootings

PENSACOLA, Fla. — As federal authorities worked on Saturday to piece together clues to last week’s attack at a Florida military training base, new details emerged about the gunman, a Saudi trainee who had apparently shown videos of mass shootings at a dinner party the night before.

Several days earlier, the gunman and three other Saudi military trainees visited New York City, including several museums and Rockefeller Center, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Investigators were seeking to determine whether the New York trip was a tourist excursion — foreign students often take recreational trips — or whether there were other motives. They also hoped to learn whether the group met with other people during the trip.

The 21-year-old gunman, identified as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, did not appear to have any ties to international terrorist groups, said a senior American official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about investigators’ findings.

The Friday morning attack in a classroom building at the Pensacola Naval Air Station left three service members dead and eight others injured. The gunman, armed with a 9-millimeter handgun and several extra magazines, was killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

The authorities offered no details about the mass shooting videos said to have been shown at Lieutenant Alshamrani’s apartment, nor did they confirm a report that a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s had posted shortly before the shooting a screed criticizing the United States as “evil” and quoting Osama bin Laden.

The report, from the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity on the internet, said the posting had criticized America’s “invasion” of many countries and its support for Israel.

Several other Saudis on the Pensacola base, which hosts some 200 foreign military trainees, were detained for questioning after the shooting. One of them, who had been at the scene of the shooting with two others, had recorded the chaotic scene in front of the classroom building where the shooting took place. He later told investigators the three of them just happened to be there at that time, were caught up in the moment and he had wanted to record it, said the person briefed on the investigation.

Some of the Saudis were detained in order to make sure every last trainee from that country was accounted for on the base, according to a senior American official. Some Saudis at bases in Oklahoma and Louisiana who had entered the country on the same flight as the gunman earlier this year were also investigated, the official said. No ties to the suspect or to terror groups were found.

The F.B.I. office in Jacksonville has declined to characterize the nature of its investigation, but a local member of Congress said it clearly appeared to be a terrorist attack.

“I said it was terrorism because it was a premeditated terrorist attack and more than one person was involved,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican whose congressional district includes Pensacola and has been kept abreast of the investigation. “The filming and potential attempts at publication show that this was an attack intended for theatrical effect to terrorize. It is the definition of terrorism.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene after Friday’s shooting. The classroom building was covered in broken glass, shell casings and obvious signs of horror.

One of the wounded, Ryan Blackwell, a Navy airman and assistant high school wrestling coach, told the Pensacola News Journal that he was at his office on the first floor of the classroom building when he heard gunshots in the hallway. He and his colleagues closed the door and took cover. The gunman shot through the door.

Mr. Blackwell said he had shielded a woman with his body. All three airmen in the office were shot, he said, with Mr. Blackwell wounded in his right arm and pelvis. He and his colleagues were able to open a window and run out, he said.

“We could have been three more casualties if we didn’t escape,” he said.

At a vigil for the shooting victims at the Olive Baptist Church on Saturday, Chief Deputy Chip W. Simmons of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said he had visited one of the two deputies who were injured while confronting the gunman, and that he was in good spirits.

He recounted the shock Friday morning of hearing the two words law enforcement officials have come to dread over the police radio: “Active shooter.” Usually, he said, that is followed up with the reassuring word of a false alarm. “I never heard that,” Chief Simmons said. “The closer I got to NAS, the more gunshots I heard on the radio.”

Then he heard another, even more dreaded phrase: “Officer down.” And then: “‘Another person down, two officers down. Get rescue.’ How much rescue do you need? ‘As many as you can bring.’”

One of the two injured deputies from the sheriff’s office was released from the hospital on Saturday. The other had been released on Friday.

The authorities by Saturday evening had not officially released the victims’ names, but family members said Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old rifle team captain, was among the dead. Adam Watson, his older brother, wrote in a Facebook post that Joshua “saved countless lives today with his own.”

“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” he wrote. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”

Mr. Watson’s father, Benjamin Watson, told The Pensacola News Journal that his 23-year-old son was shot five times. He had reported to the base two weeks earlier for flight training.

The Tampa Bay Times identified a second victim as Mohammed Haitham, a 19-year-old airman from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Questions swirled both in the community and in Washington about the thoroughness of the review that the United States conducts before foreign trainees are invited onto military bases.

Lieutenant Alshamrani’s training with the United States military began in August 2017 and was scheduled to finish in August 2020, Pentagon officials said on Saturday.

After his initial arrival in the country, Lieutenant Alshamrani attended language school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There, he took classes in English, basic aviation and initial aviation training. During school breaks, the lieutenant would return home to Saudi Arabia, Pentagon officials said.

When he came back to the United States this February, friends and colleagues noticed that Lieutenant Alshamrani, who was Muslim, had become more religious, said a person briefed on the investigation.

It was not immediately known what he did between February and last week, when he signed into his new training unit in Pensacola. He had been living in the Pensacola area for some time before that, but it was not clear what he was doing, said the person briefed on the inquiry.

Abbas Musa, the imam at the Al Islam Dawah mosque in Pensacola, said he did not recognize the shooting suspect, and said news of the attack had made his skin crawl. “What in the world would trigger you to do something like that?” Mr. Musa said. “It makes you sick. We reject it.”

At the apartment building where public records suggest the gunman may have lived, in unincorporated Escambia County, several neighbors said they did not know him. Landlords often offer short-term leases to people participating in Navy training at the base and there is a high amount of turnover, they said.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Saturday that he had directed the Pentagon to look at vetting procedures for foreign nationals who come to study and train with the American military.

The Department of Defense has 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries in various training programs. Acceptance requires screening for each applicant before acceptance, including running searches for evidence of drug trafficking, support of terrorist activity, corruption or other criminal conduct.

President Trump said before flying to South Florida on Saturday evening that the government would immediately look into “the whole procedure” of accepting foreign military trainees. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, he added, “will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones” of those killed and injured in the attack.

“I think they’re going to help out the families very greatly,” Mr. Trump said.

Members of the community who gathered for Saturday’s vigil prayed for the two deputies injured while stopping the gunman, along with others injured in the gunfire.

Mike Dimick, the military pastor at Olive Baptist Church, said he had spoken with one of the injured deputies, a 21-year-old military reservist who was shot in the arm. The young man, whom he declined to name, had reminded Mr. Dimick about a conversation they had a year ago in Bible study. An 18-year-old trainee at the base had said she was frightened because she felt the location made them a target.

“He said, ‘Every time I put on my uniform and drive by the base, I think of her, and here I am, a first responder there,’” Mr. Dimick said.

The officer was doing well, Mr. Dimick said, but seemed solemn because of “the things he has seen.”

Frances Robles reported from Pensacola, Fla.; Patricia Mazzei from Miami; Eric Schmitt from Washington; and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Simi Valley, Calif., and Adam Goldman from Washington. Susan C. Beachy and Jack Begg contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Before Florida Attack, Gunman Showed Off Mass Shooting Videos

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165577704_9884f4b8-2718-4cd6-ac57-c6357e3799cb-facebookJumbo Before Florida Attack, Gunman Showed Off Mass Shooting Videos United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces PENSACOLA, Fla. mass shootings

PENSACOLA, Fla. — As federal authorities worked on Saturday to piece together clues to last week’s attack at a Florida military training base, new details emerged about the gunman, a Saudi trainee who had apparently shown videos of mass shootings at a dinner party the night before.

Several days earlier, the gunman and three other Saudi military trainees visited New York City, including several museums and Rockefeller Center, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Investigators were seeking to determine whether the New York trip was a tourist excursion — foreign students often take recreational trips — or whether there were other motives. They also hoped to learn whether the group met with other people during the trip.

The 24-year-old gunman, identified as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, did not appear to have any ties to international terrorist groups, said a senior American official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about investigators’ findings.

The Friday morning attack in a classroom building at the Pensacola Naval Air Station left three service members dead and eight others injured. The gunman, armed with a 9-millimeter handgun and several extra magazines, was killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

The authorities offered no details about the mass shooting videos said to have been shown at Lieutenant Alshamrani’s apartment, nor did they confirm a report that a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s had posted shortly before the shooting a screed criticizing the United States as “evil’ and quoting Osama bin Laden.

The report, from the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity on the internet, said the posting had criticized America’s “invasion” of many countries and its support for Israel.

Several other Saudis on the Pensacola base, which hosts some 200 foreign military trainees, were detained for questioning after the shooting. One of them, who had been at the scene of the shooting with two others, had recorded the chaotic scene in front of the classroom building where the shooting took place. He later told investigators the three of them just happened to be there at that time, were caught up in the moment and he had wanted to record it, said the person briefed on the investigation.

Some of the Saudis were detained in order to make sure every last trainee from that country was accounted for on the base, according to a senior American official. Some Saudis at bases in Oklahoma and Louisiana who had entered the country on the same flight as the gunman earlier this year were also investigated, the official said. No ties to the suspect or to terror groups were found.

The F.B.I. office in Jacksonville has declined to characterize the nature of its investigation, but a local member of Congress said it clearly appeared to be a terrorist attack.

“I said it was terrorism because it was a premeditated terrorist attack and more than one person was involved,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican whose congressional district includes Pensacola and has been kept abreast of the investigation. “The filming and potential attempts at publication show that this was an attack intended for theatrical effect to terrorize. It is the definition of terrorism.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene after Friday’s shooting. The classroom building was covered in broken glass, shell casings and obvious signs of horror.

One of the wounded, Ryan Blackwell, a Navy airman and assistant high school wrestling coach, told the Pensacola News Journal that he was at his office on the first floor of the classroom building when he heard gunshots in the hallway. He and his colleagues closed the door and took cover. The gunman shot through the door.

Mr. Blackwell said he had shielded a woman with his body. All three airmen in the office were shot, he said, with Mr. Blackwell wounded in his right arm and pelvis. He and his colleagues were able to open a window and run out, he said.

“We could have been three more casualties if we didn’t escape,” he said.

At a vigil for the shooting victims at the Olive Baptist Church on Saturday, Chief Deputy Chip W. Simmons of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said he had visited one of the two deputies who were injured while confronting the gunman, and that he was in good spirits.

He recounted the shock Friday morning of hearing the two words law enforcement officials have come to dread over the police radio: “Active shooter.” Usually, he said, that is followed up with the reassuring word of a false alarm. “I never heard that,” Chief Simmons said. “The closer I got to NAS, the more gunshots I heard on the radio.”

Then he heard another, even more dreaded phrase: “Officer down.” And then: “‘Another person down, two officers down. Get rescue.’ How much rescue do you need? ‘As many as you can bring.’”

One of the two injured deputies from the sheriff’s office was released from the hospital on Saturday. The other had been released on Friday.

The authorities by Saturday evening had not officially released the victims’ names, but family members said Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old rifle team captain, was among the dead. Adam Watson, his older brother, wrote in a Facebook post that Joshua “saved countless lives today with his own.”

“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” he wrote. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”

Mr. Watson’s father, Benjamin Watson, told The Pensacola News Journal that his 23-year-old son was shot five times. He had reported to the base two weeks earlier for flight training.

The Tampa Bay Times identified a second victim as Mohammed Haitham, a 19-year-old airman from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Questions swirled both in the community and in Washington about the thoroughness of the review that the United States conducts before foreign trainees are invited onto military bases.

Lieutenant Alshamrani’s training with the United States military began in August 2017 and was scheduled to finish in August 2020, Pentagon officials said on Saturday.

After his initial arrival in the country, Lieutenant Alshamrani attended language school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There, he took classes in English, basic aviation and initial aviation training. During school breaks, the lieutenant would return home to Saudi Arabia, Pentagon officials said.

When he came back to the United States this February, friends and colleagues noticed that Lieutenant Alshamrani, who was Muslim, had become more religious, said a person briefed on the investigation.

It was not immediately known what he did between February and last week, when he signed into his new training unit in Pensacola. He had been living in the Pensacola area for some time before that, but it was not clear what he was doing, said the person briefed on the inquiry.

Abbas Musa, the imam at the Al Islam Dawah mosque in Pensacola, said he did not recognize the shooting suspect, and said news of the attack had made his skin crawl. “What in the world would trigger you to do something like that?” Mr. Musa said. “It makes you sick. We reject it.”

At the apartment building where public records suggest the gunman may have lived, in unincorporated Escambia County, several neighbors said they did not know him. Landlords often offer short-term leases to people participating in Navy training at the base and there is a high amount of turnover, they said.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Saturday that he had directed the Pentagon to look at vetting procedures for foreign nationals who come to study and train with the American military.

The Department of Defense has 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries in various training programs. Acceptance requires screening for each applicant before acceptance, including running searches for evidence of drug trafficking, support of terrorist activity, corruption or other criminal conduct.

President Trump said before flying to South Florida on Saturday evening that the government would immediately look into “the whole procedure” of accepting foreign military trainees. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, he added, “will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones” of those killed and injured in the attack.

“I think they’re going to help out the families very greatly,” Mr. Trump said.

Members of the community who gathered for Saturday’s vigil prayed for the two deputies injured while stopping the gunman, along with others injured in the gunfire.

Mike Dimick, the military pastor at Olive Baptist Church, said he had spoken with one of the injured deputies, a 24-year-old military reservist who was shot in the arm. The young man, whom he declined to name, had reminded Mr. Dimick about a conversation they had a year ago in Bible study. An 18-year-old trainee at the base had said she was frightened because she felt the location made them a target.

“He said, ‘Every time I put on my uniform and drive by the base, I think of her, and here I am, a first-responder there,’” Mr. Dimick said.

The officer was doing well, Mr. Dimick said, but seemed solemn because of “the things he has seen.”

Frances Robles reported from Pensacola, Fla.; Patricia Mazzei from Miami; Eric Schmitt from Washington; and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Simi Valley, Calif., and Adam Goldman from Washington. Susan C. Beachy and Jack Begg contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Florida Shooting Updates: Gunman Showed Videos of Mass Shootings at Party

Video

transcript

‘You Just Don’t Expect This,’ Sheriff Says of Pensacola Shooting

A gunman killed three people at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida before he was fatally shot by officers. It was the second shooting this week at a Navy base.

“Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie. And as the mayor eloquently put, you just don’t expect this to happen at home. This doesn’t happen in Escambia County, it doesn’t happen in Pensacola. It doesn’t happen to our friends and neighbors who are members of the United States Navy. But it did. And it has. And so for now, we’re here to pick up the pieces.” “This is a tragic day for the city of Pensacola. NAS (Naval Air Station) is incredibly an important part of our community — for 200 years this has been a part of the city of Pensacola — and we’re a military town. Our hearts and prayers are connected to all those that serve us every day, and certainly the expectation that this would happen here at home was unexpected.”

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A gunman killed three people at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida before he was fatally shot by officers. It was the second shooting this week at a Navy base.CreditCredit…WEAR-TV, via Associated Press

Here’s what you need to know:

The Saudi trainee who carried out the attack on a Florida naval base showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party the night before he carried out the shooting, according to a person briefed on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly.

The gunman, who killed three people and injured eight others, did not have any apparent ties to international terrorist groups, according to a senior American official who was also not authorized to speak.

The gunman, identified as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, was killed by a sheriff’s deputy who responded to the attack. Lieutenant Alshamrani initially entered the United States in 2018, according to initial assessments by intelligence and counterterrorism officials. But at some point Lieutenant Alshamrani returned to Saudi Arabia and then re-entered the United States in February 2019.

The lieutenant reported for his training program at the naval air station about three days before the shooting, according to the officials. It was unclear what Lieutenant Alshamrani was doing in the United States between February and when he reported for training, but he was apparently living in the Pensacola area for much of that period.

Six other Saudi nationals were detained for questioning near the scene of the shooting, which took place over two floors in a classroom on the base. Three of the Saudis who were detained had been seen filming the entire incident, according to another person briefed on the investigation.

It was not known whether the six Saudis detained were students in the classroom building, and there was no immediate indication that those filming the incident were connected to the gunman, the person said.

The authorities have said that there is no credible threat to the Pensacola community, and one of the senior officials said that all Saudi trainees on base had been accounted for.

On Facebook, family members identified Joshua Kaleb Watson as one of the victims. Adam Watson wrote in a post that his youngest brother “saved countless lives today with his own.”

“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” he wrote. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”

Mr. Watson’s father, Benjamin Watson, told The Pensacola News Journal that his 23-year-old son was shot five times. A rifle team captain, he had reported to the base two weeks earlier for flight training, his father told the newspaper.

Capt. Timothy F. Kinsella Jr., the base’s commanding officer, said the victims were “part of the Navy family.”

The authorities have not officially released the victims’ names. Sheriff Morgan said two of the eight were deputies responding to the scene. One was shot in the arm and one in the knee, but both are expected to recover and one was released from the hospital on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office said.

At a vigil for the victims on Saturday, Chip W. Simmons, the chief deputy of the Escambia County Sheriff’s office, said the injured deputy in the hospital was in good spirits.

Investigators were trying to determine what motivated the gunman.

Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, and Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican whose district includes Pensacola, both described the shooting as an act of terrorism. But federal law enforcement officials said it was too early to establish the gunman’s motive.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity, cited a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman that had posted a “will” calling the United States a “nation of evil” and criticizing its support for Israel.

SITE said the account had also quoted Osama bin Laden, the former Qaeda leader, and was critical of United States foreign policy.

“I’m not against you for just being American,” the posts said. “I don’t hate you because your freedoms, I hate you because every day you supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity.”

The account could not be independently verified, and law enforcement officials did not confirm that it was connected to the gunman.

The lieutenant was a trainee with the Saudi Air Force. Saudi pilots have trained at the Pensacola base since 1995.

The gunman used a locally purchased Glock 45 9-millimeter handgun with an extended magazine and had four to six other magazines in his possession, according to one of the people briefed on the investigation.

At a vigil for the victims on Saturday, Mayor Grover C. Robinson IV of Pensacola said that as far as he knew, the Pensacola Police had never had any interactions with the gunman.

Captain Kinsella said that about 200 international students were training at the base. They are from countries like Italy and Norway, in addition to Saudi Arabia, and are trained to fly helicopters or F-15s, according to a Navy pilot familiar with the program. Americans and Saudis go through initial training together before embarking on separate programs.

Mr. Robinson said the Naval Air Station had deep roots in northwest Florida, with a military history that went beyond its status as a state. It was a key fort for the Spanish, he said, and for “as long as we’ve been flying planes, 100 years, they have been flying planes out of that base.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Saturday that he had directed the Pentagon to look at vetting procedures for foreign nationals who came to the United States to study and train with the American military.

Mr. Esper, speaking at the Reagan Defense Forum in Simi Valley, insisted that the shooting would not affect military-to-military relations between the Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The announcement followed criticism from officials like Mr. Scott and Mr. Gaetz, who blamed the shooting, in part, on what they called insufficient federal vetting standards. The senator said he wanted a “full review” of military programs that train foreign nationals in the United States.

“Whether this individual was motivated by radical Islam or was simply mentally unstable, this was an act of terrorism,” Mr. Scott said in a statement on Friday. “There is no reason we should be providing state-of-the-art military training to people who wish us harm.”

Mr. Robinson acknowledged that the incident raised serious questions about vetting, but said he would leave issues of national security to the federal authorities. “We depend on allies,” he said. “This is the first time this has happened and NAS has been doing this for decades. We train a number of people to help fight against these adversaries.”

King Salman of Saudi Arabia called President Trump to offer his condolences and to condemn the actions of the gunman, who he said did not represent the Saudi people, according to Mr. Trump.

“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

The shooting happened early on Friday morning across two floors of a classroom building at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, where foreign military trainees have studied for decades.

Law enforcement officials said they began receiving emergency calls at about 6:50 a.m., and the base was put on lockdown. It was the second shooting at a Navy base this week.

Chief Simmons, of the Escambia County Sheriff’s office, recounted the shock of hearing words law enforcement officials have come to dread come over the police radio: “active shooter” and “officer down.”

The building was covered in broken glass, shell casings and signs of horror, Chief Simmons said, and the police used every possible person available to search every room in the multistory building.

“It isn’t till everything settles down that you realize what you’ve seen,” Chief Simmons said. “What you are experiencing is what you have seen on TV. What you are experiencing is loss of life.”

Patricia Mazzei, Adam Goldman, Helene Cooper, Kalyn Wolfe and Liam Stack contributed reporting.

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