January 13, 2020

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich’s Remarks at Press Conference on Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich issued the following statement during a press conference at the Department of Justice. (Remarks prepared for delivery.)

Good afternoon.

I’d like to offer a brief overview of our investigation into this attack.

This has been a large and incredibly complex investigation, with dozens of investigative entities involved. Let me start with what we’ve done so far.

Since the beginning of this investigation, the FBI and our partners have been united in our goal: to confirm whether the shooter acted alone or if anyone helped him.

So far, we’ve conducted more than 500 interviews with witnesses, base personnel, and the shooter’s friends, classmates, and associates.

And even today, we continue to run down any new leads in an effort to find as many answers as possible for the victims and their families.

For more than a month, this has been an around-the-clock operation, involving hundreds of FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, and professional experts from across the country.

We’ve employed dozens of surveillance teams, and executed, served, or obtained numerous search warrants, subpoenas, court orders, and emergency disclosure requests.

We’ve also collected more than 42 terabytes of digital media—and the effort to exploit that data is ongoing.

While we’re still searching for more information, so far, we have not identified any solid evidence that the shooter acted with any co-conspirators, or that he was inspired by a specific group.

Social media attributed to the shooter suggests that he harbored anti-U.S. military and anti-Israel sentiments, and that he thought violence was necessary to defend Muslim countries.

In addition, just prior to the attack, a statement was posted to his social media accounts that was nearly identical to a previous statement by Anwar al-Aulaqi, a now-deceased senior leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

And during the attack, the shooter fired shots at pictures of the current U.S. president and a former president, and a witness at the scene recounted that he made statements critical of American military action overseas.

Regarding the attack, I can now share that the shooting lasted approximately 15 minutes.

Naval Security Forces engaged the shooter approximately eight minutes after the first shots were fired, and we’ve determined that he was killed by law enforcement officers.

At the crime scene, we found a semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine, several ammunition magazines, and approximately 180 rounds of ammunition.

As announced previously, the ATF identified the shooter’s weapon as having been lawfully purchased in July 2019 in Florida. It was purchased under a hunting license exception.

This exception allows non-immigrant visa holders who otherwise are not permitted to buy firearms or ammunition to purchase them if they have a valid, state-issued hunting license, permit, or other required documentation.

Partnerships are crucial in a case like this, so I want to thank our many federal, state, and local agency partners for their hard work, including NCIS, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, ATF, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

I especially want to recognize the brave Naval Security Forces personnel who responded to the initial call for help, as well as deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

Those heroes saved many lives that day.

I’m also grateful to our FBI Jacksonville Field Office, and a host of supporting FBI Headquarters personnel and resources from other field offices.

Finally, I want to echo the attorney general’s point about the challenge that law enforcement faces from default user-controlled encryption.

The FBI continues to work with our private sector partners to find the right solution for accessing the digital evidence we need to stop criminals and terrorists.

We’re not trying to weaken encryption—after all, data security is a central part of our mission.

But even with a court order, to date we cannot access the contents of two phones in this investigation—and countless devices in other investigations.

We want to work together with private sector companies, so that we can lawfully access the evidence and information we need to keep our country safe.

Thank you.