By Brock Vergakis
NORFOLK, Va.: A civilian approaching a Navy destroyer at the world’s largest naval base late at night took a weapon from a sailor who was standing watch and used it to shoot and kill another sailor who was trying to help his embattled colleague, Navy officials said Tuesday.
Navy security forces then killed the suspect, who was authorized to be on Naval Station Norfolk and did not bring his own weapon on base, according to Capt. Robert Clark, the base’s commanding officer.
The identities of the civilian and the sailor who were killed have not been released.
“Information about our sailor will come at the appropriate time and today is not that day,” said Clark, who asked for privacy for the sailor’s family.
No other injuries were reported from the encounter, which occurred Monday about 11:20 p.m. on the USS Mahan, a guided-missile destroyer that had recently returned from a port visit in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It wasn’t immediately clear why the civilian approached the ship or if he ever had access to it previously.
The Navy said the civilian was coming toward the ship’s quarterdeck, which is traditionally the ceremonial entry point aboard a ship, when the struggle ensued and the civilian was able to disarm the Petty Officer of the Watch.
Clark said the identification found with the civilian indicates it is unlikely he was a military dependent authorized to be on base for that reason. He said the civilian was found with a TWIC card.
A TWIC is a transportation worker’s credential and is issued by the Transportation Security Administration to personnel who require unescorted access to secure areas, such as truck drivers. The cards are valid for five years, according to the TSA. All merchant mariners are also required to have a TWIC card, including employees of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.
Military Sealift Command hires civilian mariners to crew its ships, including the hospital ship USNS Comfort, which uses the same pier as the Mahan. Clark said it was unclear what exactly the civilian’s job was or when he worked on the base.
The Navy will release both men’s names after their families are notified, said Naval Station Norfolk spokeswoman Terri Davis.
The base was briefly on lockdown following the shooting.
Aside from the pier where the Mahan was docked, operations had returned to normal at the base, with counselors available, the Navy said in a statement.
But most enlisted sailors on the Mahan — docked at the first of 13 main piers — were not to report to duty Tuesday.
Some sailors gathered for a training session — unrelated to the shooting — and began with a moment of silence for their colleague.