A sailor from a U.S. submarine shot three civilian employees of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Wednesday afternoon, killing two and leaving another in stable condition, before killing himself.
The names of the victims, all male civilian Department of Defense employees, were being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The victims were transported to area hospitals, with the lone survivor being treated at The Queen’s Medical Center.
In a news conference outside the main gate of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick said no motive was yet known for the shooting that occurred at 2:30 p.m. in the vicinity of Drydock 2.
Multiple witnesses were still being interviewed into the night, he said.
Chadwick, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the deceased shooter was tentatively identified as a male sailor assigned to the USS Columbia, a Pearl Harbor-based submarine that was in drydock for routine maintenance.
No other information was available about the active- duty sailor, what kind of weapon he used or what he was doing in the drydock area, he said.
A 30-year veteran shipyard worker, who asked not to be named, said he was at the back of his shop — about an eighth of a mile from the shooting — when a second-shift worker walked in and said he heard popping sounds that sounded like gunfire as he was walking into work.
A few minutes later, he said, an alarm sounded on computers and from loudspeakers warning of an active shooter, and the shipyard went into lockdown.
The workers followed active shooter protocols, as they are trained to do, locking themselves inside the building, making sure everyone is accounted for, the man said.
“Nothing we can do until we get the all-clear,” he said. They remained inside until about 5 p.m.
Drydock 2 is located inside what’s called a Controlled Industrial Area, which requires clearance and a special badge to be allowed in. Each submarine has its own active-duty personnel on watch 24/7, so they are carrying weapons, the employee said.
The USS Columbia is a 360-foot Los Angeles-class submarine with a crew of about 140. One of about 16 subs at Pearl Harbor, the Columbia returned to Hawaii June 6, 2018, from a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific.
Outside Pearl Harbor’s closed main gate, Bianca Reyes, 27, waited nervously for her boyfriend, an electrician in the shipyard.
She arrived in the afternoon to pick him up “and I was kind of like, what’s going on, why is there traffic?” she said. “And then I got a call from his sister saying, ‘Hey there’s a shooting going on in the shipyard. Is my brother OK?’ “
Reyes said she was “super anxious, scared, confused.”
She later learned he was safe.
“This is scary. This is heartbreaking,” Reyes said of the shooting. “I’m sad that we have to deal with stuff like this in this world. It’s like happening everywhere now. I thought Hawaii was safe. I’m actually from California so I’m used to shootings and stuff. I’m from L.A. So this is not new to me but here in Hawaii, I’ve heard it was pretty safe here so it’s kind of a scary thing.”
The tragedy comes just three days before the 78th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which left 2,390 service members and civilians dead and launched the U.S. into World War II. About 2,000 are expected to attend a Saturday morning ceremony at Pearl Harbor to honor those who lost their lives on that day.
Chadwick said the shooting would have an impact on the base “ohana.”
“This is certainly a tragedy for everyone here, but certainly our sincere thoughts are with the families of the victims and everyone involved,” he said.
Base officials announced that an Emergency Family Assistance Center would be opened to help personnel cope with the tragedy. It can be reached at 866-525-6676.
Chadwick said the incident would be fully investigated from every angle, including lessons learned and the potential for additional security.
The shooting comes 20 years and one month after Honolulu’s Xerox shooting, in which seven people were killed on Nov. 2, 1999, in the last major mass shooting in Hawaii.
Shortly after Wednesday’s shooting, the base was put in lockdown and military security forces and multiple law enforcement agencies and emergency medical responders converged on the scene.
With the base shut down, vehicles outside were backed up a half mile behind the closed Nimitz gate, where a security guard was armed with an M4 rifle. The gate was reopened shortly before 4 p.m.
Bernie Amado, a dispatch services driver for Oahu Publications, the parent company of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, was stuck in a long line trying to get to Hawaiian Air Cargo through the Elliott Gate entrance.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” she said, but she noticed a deputy sheriff with his firearm drawn and other law enforcement in the area.
Amado was allowed to drive to Hawaiian Air Cargo, but was not allowed to leave. The building was on lockdown, and the parking lot was deserted, she said. When she knocked on the door, Hawaiian Air personnel initially refused to let her in, but after recognizing her, let her in the building where she remained until the lockdown was lifted.
Three public schools in the area, including two on base, also went on lockdown, according to the state Department of Education, although most students had already left the campuses because the school day was over when the shooting incident was reported.
The affected schools were Mokulele Elementary and Hickam Elementary on base, and Nimitz Elementary off base but nearby.
If you need help coping with the tragedy, you can call the Emergency Family Assistance Center at 866-525-6676.