NAS Pensacola shooting suspect was Saudi student; at least 3 dead, 8 hurt; shooter killed, officials say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Three people were shot and killed in a Friday morning attack at a Florida military base, by a gunman from Saudi Arabia, federal authorities say. The shooter, a 2nd lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force is also dead and eight people wounded.

The shooter behind the mass attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola was part of an international training center run by the U.S. Navy. Mohammed Alshamrani was taking flight instruction here at the base in Pensacola-part of a very popular program for members of the Saudi Air Force.

The I-Team has learned that for the past two years foreign military students from that training program in Florida have traveled to the Great Lakes navy base near North Chicago.

The Saudi airman identified as the mass shooter in Pensacola, was enrolled in the Navy's International Training Center headquartered known as NITC.

Members of the Royal Saudi Air Force are seen in training photos, with classes offered in basic aviation, weapons systems, anti-terrorism and executive leadership. The base commander says a couple hundred global students are currently enrolled in the NITC.

"They become aviators while they're here" said Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella. "It's been something we've been doing for quite a while with our partner nations. It's important, a cross-pollination, cross-training that we do with our allies is something we've done for a long time" Kinsella said.

According to Kinsella, "in World War II we had Royal Air Force folks that were training here. There's always been international students here because they get good training here because it's a good place to train. Good quality training."

Currently according to the Pentagon there are 852 Saudi nationals in the U.S. for military training activities. The total number of foreign students currently here for sanctioned military training is 5,181 representing 153 nations.

On September 16th, fifteen foreign military students from the training program traveled from Pensacola to the Great Lakes Navy base north of Chicago. According to the Navy, the field trip was to expose international students to modern navy training methods, electronic classrooms, labs, simulation, etc. and Navy /Lifeskills training.

Every American sailor does basic training here at Great lakes and the command staff said that the foreign military trip here was to create camaraderie between U.S. and allied service branches.

A similar trip from Pensacola was made in 2018.

It isn't known whether the shooter in the Friday attack was ever on the Great Lakes trips and Navy officials at Great Lakes and the Pentagon declined to comment to the I-Team.

There is new information about Mohammed Alshamrani:

He came to the U.S. in August, 2017 and was scheduled to leave in August of 2020. His personal training program included English Language Training, Basic Aviation, and Initial Pilot Training.

He was apparently shooting at random.

A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation tells ABC News:

Investigators have found what purports to be an online screed written by the shooter; in the posting, the writer says he hates Americans because of their crimes against Muslims and humanity.

Authorities have not announced a motive for the Florida attack, or whether it was terror-related. Federal investigators are questioning the Saudi second lieutenant's classmates about what they saw or heard. Foreign military participants in the U.S. training program do undergo an extensive security clearance. But there are questions about whether something was missed with Alshamrani, or whether he was radicalized here-and how.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.