ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the details continue to unfold from the Pensacola Naval Base shooting, it is becoming clear all three of the victims died heroes. One of those heroes was a St. Petersburg native.
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According to details, the three young men killed ran towards the shooter, giving their lives to save many others. On Saturday, the Navy identified the three victims and hailed them as heroes for trying to stop the shooter and flagging down first responders after being shot.
Killed were U.S. Naval Academy graduate Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia and Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg.
Remembering a Hero
Haitham was a 2018 Lakewood High School grad. He is described as an exceptional kid and an all-star athlete.
His family said the former track and field star had been assigned to flight crew training and was excited to graduate from the program later this month.
Haitham’s family, who called him "Mo," says he died a hero.
“Mo actually tried to stop the shooter, and that’s how he ended up passing, so a hero in many forms. Yes he was,” said Ashley Williams, the airman's cousin.
He hadn’t been in Pensacola for long, undergoing flight crew training after finishing basic training in Chicago in September. He was scheduled to finish his training in Pensacola in two weeks.
“His goal was to buy himself a jacket for Christmas, a sailor’s jacket for Christmas, and unfortunately won’t be able to do that,” Williams said.
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His step mother, Brenda Delago Haitham, told Spectrum News he’ll be dearly missed.
“He was very friendly, very loving, very respectful. I always admired how much of a good kid he was,” Haitham said.
“There was not one single person that didn’t like Mo. That’s why it’s so hard that he’s gone,” she added.
Mo had just surprised his family in St. Petersburg at Thanksgiving. They never thought that would be the last time they’d see him.
“Never in a million years we thought Mohammed, who we saw just a week ago, would be a part of this tragedy,” Ashley Williams said.
Williams is hoping in the future they’ll be changes to ensure students and personnel on military bases are protected.
“We have people out here who are taking a leap of faith, devoting their lives putting their lives on the line to protect our country to protect others, but in actuality who is protecting them?” she said.
The shooting also injured eight others, but no motive has been determined yet. The FBI identified the shooter in a statement Saturday night as Mohammed Alshamrani, 21.
Officials are working to determine if the attack was motivated by terrorism.
The Navy praised all three flight school students for their “exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil.”
“When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives,” Capt. Tim Kinsella, the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola, said in a statement Saturday.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.