DALLAS (AP) — Military officials investigating an apparent murder-suicide that happened Friday on a U.S. air base in Texas are trying to determine whether the gunman was authorized to have a weapon on the base, where the possession of firearms is heavily restricted.
The gunman was an airman who targeted his commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the shooting. The commander oversaw a base K-9 unit, the official said.
A motive for the shooting and many other details were not released by authorities Friday. Brig. Gen. Robert LaBrutta, who oversees Joint Base San Antonio, declined to identify the men, saying their families must first be notified. He also stressed the shooting was not an act of terrorism.
Investigators from the Air Force and FBI are tracing two handguns found near the bodies of the two men inside a building that holds classrooms and offices.
Military-issued and personal firearms are heavily restricted on the base and it’s not clear whether the gunman was authorized to have a weapon, according to Dan Hawkins, a spokesman for the base. Weapons are used for training purposes and carried by base security personnel, Hawkins said, but personal firearms cannot be freely carried on the base.
“Allowing everyone to carry personal firearms would make the job of our security professionals much more difficult,” Hawkins said. He also said security officers must be notified if a personal weapon is being brought onto the installation and the firearm must be registered, in addition to other requirements.
The restrictions apply not only to Lackland but also to Fort Sam Houston, the Randolph air base and another installation that comprise Joint Base San Antonio, which has more than 80,000 full-time personnel and is the home of Air Force basic training.
The 2016 defense policy bill signed by President Barack Obama directed the Pentagon to set up a process by which commanders of U.S. military installations and certain other commanders at military reserve or recruiting centers can authorize a member of the armed forces to carry a firearm if “necessary as a personal- or force-protection measure.”
But Hawkins said that congressional legislation did not alter firearms policies already in place at Joint Base San Antonio, and neither did the Texas Legislature’s decision last year to allow for the open-carry of handguns in the state.
Friday’s shooting, which the San Antonio Express-News reports caused officials to abruptly end a nearby military training parade with thousands of spectators, is the latest to occur at a military facility in Texas in the last several years.
In January 2015, an Army veteran and former clerk at the veterans’ clinic at Fort Bliss in El Paso shot and killed a psychologist, then killed himself. About a year earlier, three soldiers were killed and 16 wounded in an attack at Fort Hood near Killeen by Army Spc. Ivan A. Lopez, who also killed himself.
And in the deadliest attack to occur at a U.S. military installation, 13 people were killed and 31 were wounded in a mass shooting in 2009 at Fort Hood. Nidal Hasan, a former U.S. Army major, was convicted and sentenced to death in that shooting.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
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