Words by Bridget Foster.
Just 6 months after the deadly shooting at the Washington Naval Yard, a civilian worker at Naval Station Norfolk boarded a destroyer on Monday evening, disarmed a petty officer who was on guard and shot a sailor who had come to the officer’s aid. The sailor was fatally wounded and the suspect was killed by Navy security forces, according to Navy officials.
Commanding Officer Captain Robert Clark told reporters on Tuesday that the suspect had the required credentials to be on the base but it wasn’t clear whether he was a current employee or whether he had permission to be aboard the guided-missile destroyer, the USS Mahan. Captain Clark emphasized that the suspect did not bring his own weapon onto the base but was able to wrestle it away from the petty officer on watch when he was confronted after approaching the quarterdeck of the destroyer.
The suspect was found in possession of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, which provides maritime workers with unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels. Clark said the suspect had performed work at the base, but it was still under investigation whether or not he was working when he boarded the destroyer. The base was originally placed on lockdown for about 45 minutes but operations returned to normal late Tuesday morning, with the exception of Pier 1, where the Mahan and a Navy hospital ship are docked. Only officers, chiefs and duty section personnel were allowed to report to the Mahan on Tuesday.
Sitting on over 6,000 acres, Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval complex in the world, home to 64 ships, approximately 46,000 military members and 21,000 civilian government employees and contractors, according to statistics published in an AP story. The USS Mahan returned to port in September after being deployed for eight months and is staffed with a crew of almost 300.
Base spokeswoman Terri David informed reporters that the base was secure. Each entrance to the base has posted guards and motorists arriving on base must present IDs. There are 13 piers and each has additional security forces. Security improvements were made this year at the Norfolk base as well as other bases in the region which include the use of handheld ID scanners. Ironically, last month the base held an active-shooter drill as part of anti-terrorism and force protection exercises that were held at Navy bases around the world.
Just one week before the shooting, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus held a news conference at the Pentagon to announce plans to implement four security changes at military installations in light of the September shooting incident:
- Automated reviews of cleared personnel that will check law enforcement and other data bases for information such as arrest records
- Creation of an Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center to analyze the results of the automated reviews, connect the dots, and determine if follow up is needed
- Appointing one person within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence who will lead efforts to counter insider threats
- Accelerate the development of the Identity Management Enterprise Services Architecture that will allow security officers to share access control information
Commander Clark told reporters that the Norfolk base will review their security procedures “to make sure we’re doing everything we need to do…to make sure we stay safe.” He also said the identities of the sailor and the shooting suspect would be released once their families had been notified.