Sailor from St. Petersburg, 19, among victims in Pensacola Navy base shooting
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - St. Petersburg native Mohammed Haitham was one of the three victims killed in Friday's shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the US Navy confirmed.
Haitham, whose friends and family called him "Mo," graduated in 2018 from Lakewood High School, where he was a track and field star.
The 19-year-old then enlisted in the US Navy. He was assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight crew training after boot camp.
Mohammed Haitham (US Navy)
Friends said Haitham died trying to stop the shooter.
"If you knew Mo, this is no surprise," Kimberly Walker said in a tribute to the late sailor on Facebook.
Szeja Thomas, who had known Haitham since middle school, told FOX 13, "The most important memory will be him dying as a hero."
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman offered his sympathy to Haitham's family after learning of his death.
"Sooner or later, as these senseless shootings pile up, they hit closer and closer to home," Kriseman tweeted. "My deepest condolences to the Haitham Family. I hope there is peace in knowing Mo made our community and world better."
Thomas shared her memories of Haitham with FOX 13's Elizabeth Fry.
"Mohammed was an amazing person, he was always a motivational person and would do anything for anyone if they needed it," Thomas recalled. "It's a blessing being a friend to a person like him, every memory -- from running track in middle school to now -- will always be cherished."
A second victim, Joshua Watson, is also credited with saving lives when he led first responders to the active shooter, despite having been shot multiple times.
"The Sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty and showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil. When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives," said Capt. Tim Kinsella, NAS Pensacola's commanding officer, in a statement. "If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse.”
The assault, which ended when a sheriff's deputy killed the attacker, was the second fatal shooting at a U.S. Navy base this week and prompted a massive law enforcement response and base lockdown.
The shooter was a member of the Saudi military, who was in aviation training at the base, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. DeSantis spokesman Helen Ferre later said the governor learned about the shooter's identity from briefings with FBI and military officials.
Earlier Friday, two U.S. officials identified the student as a second lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force, and said authorities were investigating whether the attack was terrorism-related. They spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose information that had not yet been made public.
President Donald Trump declined to say whether the shooting was terrorism-related. Trump tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims and noted that he had received a phone call from Saudi King Salman.
He said the king told him 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."
The Saudi government offered condolences to the victims and their families and said it would provide “full support” to U.S. authorities investigating the shooting.
DeSantis said Saudi Arabia needed to be held to account for the attack.
“Obviously, the government ... needs to make things better for these victims," he said. “I think they’re going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.