Navy Shooting: Sailor and Civilian Dead at Norfolk Base

Pentagon

A United States sailor and one civilian are dead after a shooting at a Norfolk, Virginia Naval Station, the largest naval base in the world.

In the late hours of Monday night, a civilian gunman killed an active-duty sailor aboard the guided missile destroyer, the USS Mahan, which was docked at Pier 1, before being killed himself by Navy security forces, as Navy officials told The Associated Press. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and base security personnel are conducting an investigation, but it is still unclear how the alleged shooter was able to transport the weapon onto the base as civilians must be escorted or have a pass. Each base entrance is guarded, and all 13 piers have additional security as well as handheld ID scanners. After the shooting, the base was put on lockdown for 45 minutes as a precaution. With the exception of Pier 1, activity on the Naval Station Norfolk have returned to normal, according to The Press.

Base spokesperson Terri Davis would not describe the circumstances of the shooting in any detail to the publication; she did say both the victim and the shooter were male, but she not have any other additional information, nor did she say whether the civilian had permission to be aboard the destroyer where the sailor was shot at approximately 11:20 p.m. The names of both men will be released as soon as their families are notified, she added.

Navy spokesperson Beth Baker told Reuters that the civilian had been carrying a firearm on the base in violation of base rules that allow only security personnel to do so. She explained that Navy officials were looking into the “access and credentials” of the civilian who was not authorized to be on the installation. It remains unknown who subdued the alleged shooter and under what circumstances.

According to information provided by the Navy in February, the Naval Station Norfolk — which is under the command of Captain Robert E. Clark Jr. — comprises of more than 6,000 acres and is the home port for 64 ships as well as a Navy hospital ship. Navy statistics show that approximately 46,000 military members and 21,000 civilian government employees and contractors are assigned to the base and its ships. The USS Mahan, commissioned in 1998, is crewed by 300. It returned to base in September after an eight-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea where it was positioned for a potential strike against Syria.

Monday night’s shooting follows closely behind a similar incident; last September; a former Navy reservist — Aaron Alexis — killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in the heart of the nation’s capital. It was a shooting the Pentagon has since deemed preventable. Although he was given a general discharge in 2011 after exhibiting a “pattern of misbehavior,” at the time of the incident, Alexis still held security clearance and was working part time at the Navy Yard as a subcontractor helping the military update computer systems. He used his security key card to open a door at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters where the shooting began.

Now, the Department of Defense has vowed to reduce the number of employees at military installations who hold security clearance by at least 10 percent and committed to overhauling the way personnel are screened. As part of the military’s efforts to boost security, the Norfolk Naval Station implemented handheld ID scanners this year.

In general, the Department’s review of the September 16 mass shooting at the Washington Naval Yard provided a damning picture of the government’s ability to monitor the reliability of a workforce that grew exponentially following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But more specifically, the inquiry found that the Navy and the subcontracting firm that later employed Alexis “missed opportunities for intervention” that could have prevented the former sailor from retaining his secret security clearance, which gave him access to military installations like the Washington Navy Yard.

“The reviews identified troubling gaps in the Department of Defense’s ability to detect, prevent and respond to instances where someone working with us decides to inflict harm on this institution and its people,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said March 18.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Meghan on Twitter @MFoley_WSCS