Dec. 7 (UPI) — Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the Pentagon plans to review the screening process for foreign students after a deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Local officials said the gunman in Friday’s shooting, who was killed, was a Saudi aviation trainee. The shooter killed three people at the U.S. naval base and injured eight people.
Though it’s still early in the probe, officials were investigating whether the shooting was terror-related.
“I am extremely concerned by the reports that this shooter was a foreign national training on a U.S. military base in Florida,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said in a statement.
Esper tweeted Friday evening that he is “considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and families,” amid Florida leaders’ calls for more scrutiny of foreign nationals who come to the United States for training.
“I also talked about our team looking at the measures we have in place to ensure proper vetting and screening of foreign students as they come to our country to make sure we understand we have a good handle on who they are and that they’ve been properly screened,” he added.
One of two sheriff’s deputies injured in the shooting has been released from the hospital, and the other is recovering from surgery, Escambia County sheriff’s Maj. Andrew Hobbs said Saturday.
Naval Air Station Pensacola Capt. Tim Kinsella estimated there were a couple hundred foreign students at the base, which employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website.
“There’s always been international students training here because it’s a good place to train, it’s good quality training,” Kinsella said.
Esper said he didn’t expect the incident to impact the U.S.-Saudi military relationship.
“I don’t see this undermining the deeper relationship we’ve had with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for decades,” Esper said.
The incident was the second deadly shooting at a U.S. Navy installation in three days. A U.S. sailor fatally shot two people and injured a third Wednesday at a military base in Hawaii before killing himself.