Esper: Pentagon is looking for more ways to prevent base access to ‘foreign-inspired terrorists’



WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is looking at additional measures to prevent “foreign-inspired terrorists” from accessing military installations, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said a day after a gunman shot a sailor as he attempted to speed past a security gate at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.

The incident Thursday at the Texas base was the third active-shooter incident at a naval facility in five months and the second that the FBI has determined is related to terrorism. On Dec. 6, a Saudi Air Force officer, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, shot and killed three sailors and injured eight others at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. On Monday, the FBI announced Alshamrani was in communication with al-Qaida prior to the attack.

“I am very concerned about both cases,” Esper said Friday during a television interview on NBC’s Today show. “We’re looking at additional measures we will take to ensure that foreign-inspired terrorists do not have access” to military installations and the country. However, the defense secretary did not provide details about what those measures could be.

After the shooting at NAS Pensacola, the Defense Department took measures to prevent future attacks such as more thorough background vetting of people coming to train in the country, limited installation access, and updating the weapons policies, he said.

The FBI is leading the investigation into the shooting at NAS Corpus Christi and hopefully there will be more information in the coming days about what happened and what motivated the gunman, Esper said.

The FBI said Thursday that a second person of interest in the shooting could be at large in the community. But FBI agent Leah Greeves provided few additional details during the news conference, including how they determined the incident is terrorism related. More so, the agency said it would not release information about the suspect at this time due to the ongoing investigation.

However, the gunman was identified as Adam Alsahli of Corpus Christi, according to three officials familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

At about 6:15 a.m. Thursday, the gunman tried to speed through a base security gate, opening fire and wounding the sailor, a member of base security, U.S. officials told the AP. But she was able to roll over and hit the switch that raised a barrier, preventing the man from getting onto the base, the officials said.

Other security personnel shot and killed the man. The sailor sustained minor injuries and she was treated and released from a local hospital Thursday, said Steve Strickland, a spokesman with Navy Region Southeast.

Esper said Friday that the sailor is doing well.