US sailor at Pearl Harbor base kills two before shooting himself

Unnamed US Navy sailor fatally shoots two civilians and wounds a third at Hawaii shipyard before taking his own life.

While gun violence is common in the US, shootings at military facilities in the country are relatively rare [Caleb Jones/AP]

A US Navy sailor has shot three civilians, killing two of them, before taking his own life at the historic military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, military officials said.

“I can report that Joint Base security personnel did respond to the report of an active shooter today in the vicinity of Dry Dock 2 in the naval shipyard,” Rear Admiral Robert B Chadwick said. 

Chadwick said he did not know the motive behind Wednesday’s shooting. The third victim was hospitalised.

The incident came three days before the 78th anniversary of the December 7, 1941, attack on the naval base that led the United States to enter the second world war by declaring war on Japan.

Chadwick added that the shooter, who has been “tentatively” identified as an active duty sailor assigned to the USS Columbia, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

An unnamed witness told Hawaii News Now in an on-air interview that he heard gunfire near Dry Dock 2 at the base and looked up from his desk to see the gunman put a gun to his head and shoot himself.

Civilian victims

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam posted on Twitter that the three victims were civilians working for the US Department of Defense.

“I join in solidarity with the people of Hawaii as we express our heartbreak over this tragedy and concern for those affected by the shooting,” Hawaii Governor David Ige said.

“Details are still emerging as security forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam investigate.”

Ige said the White House had contacted him to offer assistance from federal agencies as needed.

“The [US] president has been briefed on the shooting at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and continues to monitor the situation,” a White House spokesman said.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is a combined US air force and navy installation located 13km (8 miles) from Honolulu.

The base, which was formed by the merger of Pearl Harbor Naval Station and Hickam Air Force Base, was placed on lockdown for about two hours following the incident at about 2:30 pm local time (00:30 GMT, Thursday).

Mass shootings and gun violence are rare in Hawaii. In 1999, a photocopier service technician fatally shot seven co-workers.

In 2006, a man fatally shot his taxi driver and a couple taking photos of the city lights from a lookout point in the hills above Honolulu.

Hawaii had the lowest gun death rate among the states in 2017, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The islands have strict firearms laws, including a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Shootings rare at US army bases

While gun violence is common in the US, shootings at American military facilities in the country are relatively rare.

In July 2015, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez carried out an attack at two military installations in the US state of Tennessee that killed four Marines and a sailor, with the FBI concluding that the violence was inspired by a “foreign terrorist group”.

Two years earlier, Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and wounded eight others at the Washington Navy Yard, just 3km (2 miles) from the US Capitol building, before being shot dead by officers.

Four years before that, Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at Fort Hood. He was considered a “lone wolf” who supported the al-Qaeda group.

In 2016, the Pentagon softened rules on US troops carrying firearms while at government facilities in response to a series of deadly attacks on uniformed personnel.

Troops already carried weapons as part of certain job functions, but the new rules permitted commanders to authorise the carrying of privately owned handguns. 

Source: News Agencies