PENSACOLA, Fla. – Two Escambia County sheriff's deputies are credited with neutralizing a gunman who killed three people and wounded at least eight more at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning.
A spokesman for NAS Pensacola said that the Navy and local law enforcement have a partnership in place to do joint active shooter response drills and to assist each other during major incidents.
"We responded, and the Sheriff's Office responded very quickly right after," Jason Bortz, a spokesman for NAS Pensacola, said. "We work together, and they were great to work with."
The call reporting an active shooter came in around 6:30 a.m. CST Friday, according to Navy officials, and deputies arrived on the scene from a nearby precinct within a few minutes.
Deputies encountered the shooter in a building of training classrooms, and there was an exchange of gunfire. ECSO Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said he could not say specifically how long the engagement lasted, but he noted it spanned two floors of the building.
The suspect was killed in the encounter. One deputy was shot in the arm, and the other was shot in the knee, but both are expected to recover from their wounds. Neither of the deputies had been identified as of Friday afternoon.
Simmons took a moment to recognize all the state, local and federal agencies that responded to stop or investigate the attack, saying, "they got here in short order, and they neutralized the threat so there was no further loss of life. Let’s keep that in the back of our mind, as well as thoughts of those who are injured and certainly the families of those who lost their lives."
Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to Pensacola for a debriefing on the incident.
"I can tell you lives were saved because of the response of people both in uniform for the Navy and in uniform with Escambia County," DeSantis said. "In one of the darkest days in the base’s history, you still saw some of that bravery and grit come out, even in people who had been wounded themselves, thinking about others and what could be done to save others."
Bortz, the NAS spokesman, said that only the base's security personnel are permitted to carry firearms on base, and weapons were strictly prohibited among other base personnel.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said the gunman had been armed with a handgun, and it was unclear when or how the suspect brought the weapon onto the base. Base leadership have long worked to balance maintaining security with public access to attractions such as the Blue Angels Air Show, Barrancas National Cemetery and the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Admission protocols for the base typically don't include searches of visitors or their vehicles.
Base commander Capt. Tim Kinsella, responding to a question of whether the base will change its security protocols following the shooting, said, "Security is ever-changing, ever-evolving. We look at lessons learned from this, and if necessary we will. We're not an organization of stasis."
He expressed gratitude to all the state and local partners who assisted with the response, particularly the individuals who put themselves in harm's way to help others.
"I'm very, very proud of the response of my security department, and I'm proud of the sheriff's department, what they did," Kinsella said. "So it think it could have been a lot, lot worse if we didn't train like we do to minimize casualties in events like this."