Officials are still trying to determine on Sunday whether a Saudi Air Force lieutenant acted alone in his deadly rampage on a Florida naval base and are treating the shooting as an act of terrorism, the lead federal investigator said Sunday.
Rachel Rojas, the special agent-in-charge for the FBI’s Jacksonville division, said their main goal is to determine whether Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani worked as “part of a larger network” when he opened fire in a Pensacola Naval Air Base classroom on Friday, killing three people and wounding eight.
Investigators are still trying to “discern any possible ideology that may have been a factor,” Rojas said, in the attack. The FBI has yet to announce a motive for the gunman, who was shot and killed on scene by a sheriff’s deputy.
Rojas said investigating a shooting as terrorism can maximize tools to quickly identify and eliminate further threats, though she emphasized at a Sunday news conference that officials have no reason to believe the community remains at risk. The Navy has confirmed that all international students at the Pensacola base are accounted for, the investigator said.
Rojas said the gunman’s weapon, a 9mm Glock handgun, was lawfully purchased, but did not describe how al-Shamrani obtained it and brought it onto a base where outside weapons are generally not permitted.
Details about the shooter and his movements prior to Friday have been slow to emerge, and investigators say they are still questioning al-Shamrani’s associates on base. Rojas declined to speak to many specifics, including reports that other Saudi nationals filmed Friday’s shooting, and that al-Shamrani hosted a dinner party the night before the attack at which he showed videos of previous mass shootings.
Multiple Saudi students close to the gunman are cooperating with investigators as their Saudi commanding officer restricts them to the base, Rojas said, adding that the Saudi government has also pledged full cooperation.
No arrests have been made, Rojas said.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike drew a hard line with Saudi Arabia on Sunday as investigators pored over the gunman’s past. Speaking on Sunday shows, where the issue of impeachment continued to divide them, politicians were united in calling for Saudi Arabia to aid investigations.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of several state officials calling for closer scrutiny of foreigners who enter the country for military training, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he spoke with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador, Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, who called to offer condolences.
Gaetz said he told the ambassador the U.S. does not want the Kingdom interfering in the case, but expects its full cooperation should investigators need it.
Law enforcement officials are questioning six other Saudi nationals, some of whom are also students in the Navy flight training program. Three of the Saudis were said to have taken cellphone video at the scene, according to a U.S. official familiar with investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing probe.
Gaetz raised the possibility that al-Shamrani, a 21-year-old member of the Saudi air force, had collaborators in the attack he’s called terrorism and said Sunday must “inform on our ongoing relationship” with Saudi Arabia.
“If there are Saudis that we do not have — that may have been involved in any way in the planning, inspiration, execution, or finance of this — that we expect Saudi intelligence to work with our government,” Gaetz said.
The lawmaker said the ambassador assured him that full cooperation would be provided.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., struck a similar tone on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, saying officials would press Saudi Arabia to investigate the tragedy as well. But he also criticized President Donald Trump for not being more aggressive with the kingdom.
“I wish the president was pressing the Saudi government for answers,” he said.
Trump’s response to the shooting has been conspicuously restrained. On Friday, the president tweeted that he had spoken with Saudi King Mohammed bin Salman by phone, and he is “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.”
White House officials stressed on Saturday that the attack would not impact the close relationship between Washington and Riyadh.
Schiff’s frustration with Trump’s response to the shooting was echoed by Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who said it is “unacceptable” that the U.S. continues to aid Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and pointed to the the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Booker decried Trump’s stance toward the Saudis as “transactional,” calling for a broad review of U.S.-Saudi relations.
In Pensacola, base security practices are under scrutiny amid questions about how al-Shamrani carried out his attack in a place where unauthorized weapons are prohibited. Schiff said Sunday that he wants to review military protocols.
Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who oversees U.S. base security as chief of U.S. Northern Command, has directed domestic bases and units to “immediately assess force protection measures and implement increased random security measures for their facilities,” Northcom said in a tweet early Sunday morning.
A former U.S. military official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to discuss military affairs, said the program that would have brought al-Shamrani to the air base is a formal military exchange, “and part of broader training agreements between the U.S. and allied countries.”
“Foreign military officers, particularly those under training, are accounted for under a similar standard to U.S. personnel under a training environment,” said the official, who worked with foreign trainees.
Officials are combing through the shooter’s belongings and social media accounts but have not confirmed a link between al-Shamrani and a Twitter account that surfaced Friday bearing his name. The account criticized U.S. support for Israel and accusing Washington of “funding crimes against Muslims.”
Citing a person briefed on the investigation, the New York Times reported that friends and colleagues thought the gunman, a Muslim, had become more religious after returning to the U.S. this February. He visited Saudi Arabia on school breaks, the Times reported.
Late Saturday, authorities identified those killed in the Friday morning rampage as three students: 23-year-old Joshua Kaleb Watson, 19-year-old Mohammed Sameh Haitham and 21-year old Cameron Scott Walters.