When a gunman opened fire at dawn Friday in a Florida naval base classroom, Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was shot at least five times.
A recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Watson made his way out of the training building at Naval Air Station Pensacola and described the shooter to first responders, his father, Benjamin Watson, told the Pensacola News Journal.
Watson was transported to Baptist Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
“Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” Watson’s brother, Adam Watson, wrote in a post on Facebook. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a [hole] in our hearts that can never be filled.”
Adam Watson said his younger brother shared “invaluable” details with law enforcement, who initially responded to reports of a shooting inside an air station classroom at 6:51 a.m. Navy officials placed the base on lockdown, and an hour later authorities reported that the alleged shooter Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Saudi air force, was dead.
Watson was one of three people killed in the shooting. Another eight were wounded, authorities said.
Saturday, the Watson family planned to drive 125 miles to Pensacola to see their son, the AP reported.
It was not immediately clear whether the dead and wounded were service members or civilians. The facility hosts 16,000 military personnel and more than 7,000 civilians.
None of the victims have been formally identified by authorities, who have said the flow of information about the shooting will be slow.
“Do not expect quick answers,” said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. “There’s going to be some parts of this investigation . . . that you may never have access to, just because of . . . who we’re dealing with.”
The nature of the shooting — an attack on a military base by a foreign national — would prevent investigators from revealing everything they learn about the case, Morgan said.
Baptist Health Care in Pensacola said it had admitted eight patients from the shooting.
Among the injured was Charles Hogue, a base police officer who was shot in the thigh while responding to the shooting, a family member told The Washington Post. The relative said Saturday afternoon that Hogue had been released from the hospital and is doing well.
”Charles has always been a hero in our eyes, but today he truly showed why he is one of our country’s finest,” said a Facebook post from Perdido Bay’s youth soccer club, where Hogue is a referee. “Please keep Mr. Charles in your thoughts and prayers.”
In his interview with the Pensacola News Journal, Benjamin Watson said his son “died serving his country.” The 23-year-old reported to Pensacola the week of Veterans Day to begin flight training to become a Navy pilot, the newspaper reported.
Kaleb Watson grew up in Enterprise, Alabama, and had wanted to be in the military since he was a boy, his father told the News Journal. He was inspired by his uncle, Richard Lindsay, who served in Operation Desert Storm and was killed in a vehicle accident.
At the Naval Academy, the News Journal reported, Kaleb Watson was captain of the rifle team, a small arms instructor and a wrestling coach.
”Just wish I could talk to him one more time or wrestle with him one more time,” Adam Watson wrote of his brother on Facebook, “even though he could probably take me now.”
On Saturday, the Watson family prepared to drive the 125 miles south to Pensacola to see their son, reported the Associated Press.
“His mission was to confront evil,” Benjamin Watson told the News Journal. “To bring the fight to them, wherever it took him. He was willing to risk his life for his country. We never thought he would die in Florida.”