Pearl Harbor shooting unfolded in 23 seconds in packed area
HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy sailor who fatally shot two people at Pearl Harbor before killing himself was unhappy with his commanders and had been undergoing counseling, a military official said Friday.
Gabriel Romero, 22, also faced non-judicial punishment, which is a lower-level administrative process for minor misconduct, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters not made public. He used his two service weapons in the attack, the official said.
Romero also wounded a 36-year-old man in the attack Wednesday at the naval shipyard within the storied military base before turning the gun on himself, authorities said. That victim is in stable condition at a hospital.
In a second attack at a Navy base this week, a shooter opened fire in a classroom building Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida — leaving four people dead, including the assailant, and multiple people wounded.
The Pearl Harbor shooting came just days before a ceremony to remember those who perished in the Japanese bombing 78 years ago that propelled the U.S. into World War II.
Security will be beefed up as usual for the annual event that is expected to draw survivors, veterans, dignitaries and others Saturday to honor the more than 2,300 Americans killed on Dec. 7, 1941.
Military officials said Friday at a news conference that they had not found a motive yet for the shooting but that there’s no evidence of domestic terrorism. They said the isolated attack, witnessed by shipyard employees in an area with thousands of workers, unfolded in about 23 seconds.
Romero, who was from Texas and enlisted in the Navy two years ago, was dead when authorities arrived, and he was armed for his job standing watch and providing security for the fast attack submarine USS Columbia, which is at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for maintenance, officials said.
Retired Army Col. Gregory Gross, a former military judge, said that just because Romero faced non-judicial punishment doesn’t automatically mean he should have been taken off watch duty.
“It could have been something as simple as you were late for work,” said Gross, who presided over part of the court-martial for the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Texas.
But if the misconduct were something like assault, then it would have been easy to take Romero off watch duty and take away his weapons, Gross said.
“All it takes is for the commander to say, ‘You’re not getting a weapon,’ and he would be taken off that watch,” he said.