A US sailor opens fire at a Pearl Harbor shipyard days before the anniversary of historic attack

Updated 6:59 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2019
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(CNN) —  

Multiple agencies are investigating Wednesday’s shooting at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii, where authorities say a US sailor killed two civilian workers and injured another before killing himself.

A federal government source tells CNN the shooter has been identified as Gabriel Romero, an active-duty US Navy sailor assigned to the USS Columbia attack submarine. The submarine was in a dry dock at the base for standard maintenance work.

Investigators have yet to identify a motive; officials do not believe the shooting at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam was associated with terrorism.

Authorities believe Romero chose his victims randomly, the source said.

“We are saddened by this incident, & our thoughts & prayers are with the victims & their families,” Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said in a Twitter statement.

The base’s security force is investigating the incident with other agencies, Chadwick said, including the Navy’s investigative services.

One witness, who did not give his name, was at his desk Wednesday when he heard the gunshots from Shipyard Drydock 2, a maintenance area for nuclear submarines.

“I kind of recognized that as gunshots, I looked out the window (and) saw three people on the ground, I looked out in time to see the shooter, who I assume was a sailor because he was in uniform, point the gun at his head and shoot himself,” the witness told CNN affiliate KGMB/KHNL.

The shooting took place just three days before National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, when the nation commemorates those who died in the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust the United States into World War II.

Security stands guard outside the main gate at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Hawaii.
Security stands guard outside the main gate at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Hawaii.
PHOTO: Caleb Jones/AP

Shooting near the shipyard

The sailor opened fire at the Pearl Harbor Naval shipyard at around 2:30 p.m. HST (7:30 p.m. EST), officials tweeted on the base’s verified account.

He shot three civilian workers before fatally shooting himself. Two of the victims died and the third is in stable condition at a local hospital, according to Chadwick.

“We have no indication yet whether they were targeted or if it was a random shooting,” he told reporters in a brief news conference Wednesday.

The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu received one patient from the incident, Minna Sugimoto, a spokeswoman for The Queen’s Health System, told CNN.

The identities of the victims will not be released until next of kin has been notified. There were no other details about the victims.

Alex Ojeda and Will Churchill were reporting for their first day of work on the base when the violence started, they told CNN affiliate KHNL.

“We were actually on our way out,” Ojeda said. “We didn’t expect that at all.”

The Battleship Missouri Memorial, seen from Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial, seen from Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
PHOTO: Marco Garcia/AP

Another serviceman was having his hair cut when he received text message alerts about the shooting, the outlet reported.

“We got a bunch of texts from on the ship and on the barge letting us know there’s an active shooter alert,” the service member said.

Three days before commemoration of attack

It was 78 years ago Saturday that the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,000 Americans and destroying a significant share of US battleships and airplanes.

The base, on the island of Oahu, is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sees nearly 2 million visitors a year. The base had a population of more than 66,000 as of 2015. It houses Air Force and Navy units.

“The (Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard) is a vital part of our Navy ohana, & we have generations of people, families, who work there,” Chadwick said on Twitter. “Our security forces are working closely with agencies investigating this incident, and we are making available counseling and other support to those who need it after this tragedy.”

CNN’s Dakin Andone, Steve Almasy and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.