WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. law enforcement officials were digging into the background of the suspected Florida Naval station shooter Friday, to determine the Saudi Air Force officer’s motive and whether it was connected to terrorism.
As questions swirled about the shooting, which left four people dead and multiple people wounded, officials identified the suspect as 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation officer in the Saudi Air Force. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Alshamrani was attending the aviation school at the base, one of hundreds of international military members who are receiving training there. The shooter opened fire in a classroom building on Friday morning.
The U.S. has long had a robust training program for Saudis, providing assistance in the U.S. and in the Kingdom. And the Trump administration has sent several Patriot missile batters and hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia this year in the wake of attacks on the kingdom that officials blame on Iran.
On Friday, President Donald Trump said he got a call from Saudi King Salman, who expressed “his sincere condolences” and sent sympathies to the families of those involved.
“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people,” said Trump in a tweet.
The shooting, however, shined a spotlight on what has been a sometimes rocky relationship with the kingdom.
The U.S. earlier this year agreed to send three Patriot missile batteries, dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia. And in October, Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Prince Sultan Air Base to see one of the batteries and talk about efforts to get other allies to contribute to the defense of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region to counter threats from Iran.
But the kingdom is still trying to recover from the killing last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi intelligence officials and a forensic doctor killed and dismembered Khashoggi on Oct. 2, 2018, just as his fiancée waited outside the diplomatic mission.
Khashoggi, long a royal court insider, had been in self-imposed exile in the U.S. while writing critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the oil-rich nation’s King Salman.