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What We Know About the Shooting at Pearl Harbor

An active-duty sailor opened fire at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on Wednesday, killing two civilians before taking his own life.

by Tim Marcin
Dec 5 2019, 2:14pm

AP Photo/Caleb Jones

An active-duty sailor opened fire at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on Wednesday, killing two civilians before taking his own life.

The details of the incident are still emerging, but here’s what we know so far about the shooting, which took place just days before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dec. 7.

An unclear motive

Authorities have not yet released the identity of the shooter, who was assigned to a submarine docked at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The names of the two civilians who were killed, both men, have also not yet been made public. A third gunshot victim, a 36-year-old man, “remains in guarded condition” at a local medical center, according to Hawaii News Now.

All three victims have been identified as civilian Defense Department employees working at the shipyard. Officials weren’t able to say why the shooter opened fire or if the shooter had any prior relationship with the victims.

“We have no indication yet whether they were targeted or if it was a random shooting,” Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, told reporters.

The shooting happened around 2:30 p.m. local time near the dry dock where the USS Columbia ― the submarine the shooter was assigned to ― was having maintenance done. The base’s security officers and local police were on the scene within minutes.

Officials said they were investigating what kind of gun was used in the shooting. Personal weapons are not allowed on the base.

“I looked out the window, saw three people on the ground”

As the shooting unfolded, base personnel were warned via text messages and a PA system to shelter in place. The wail of sirens nearly drowned out the warning.

“All I could make out was ‘Secure in place,’” Elena Gartland, a witness who was driving off the base at the time of the shooting, told the Washington Post. “There were lots of police sirens around us at the time of the announcement.”

Nathaniel Penn, a civilian contractor who works on the base, told the New York Times he heard a “pow” sound while taking a break.

“I thought it was a machine,” he said.

But then the emergency alert system went off.

An unidentified witness told Hawaii News Now he heard the pops ring out while sitting at his desk.

“I kind of recognize that as gunshots,” the witness told the local news outlet. “I looked out the window, saw three people on the ground. I looked out in time to see the shooter... shoot himself.”

Heartbreak ahead of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Chadwick used the Hawaiian word “ohana” ― which effectively means family ― to describe the close-knit community around the base located about 8 miles outside Honolulu.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the White House had offered help from federal agencies and that the state has offered assistance as well.

“I join in solidarity with the people of Hawaii as we express our heartbreak over this tragedy and concern for those affected by the shooting,” Ige said in a statement.

The shipyard is also home to the National Pearl Harbor Memorial. Saturday marks the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Veterans and various dignitaries will soon arrive for ceremonies.

“The role that the shipyard played in World War II is pretty legendary, and the shipyard is well known for the amazing work they did then and the amazing work they continue to do,’’ Chadwick told reporters. “This is certainly a tragedy for everyone here, and certainly our sincere thoughts are with the families of the victims and everyone involved.”

Cover: Security forces attend to an unidentified male outside the the main gate at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Hawaii, following a shooting. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Pearl Harbor