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Escambia Co. Deputies, Other Reponders to NAS Attack Honored

Bob Barrett

Six Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies and a pair of officers with the Department of Defense were awarded the Medal of Valor Friday, for their involvement in the Dec. 6 shooting at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Escambia County deputies honored were: Sgt. Mike Hoyland; Senior Deputy Grant Lopez, and deputies Jonathan Glass, Matthew Housam, Matthew Keebler, and Matthew Tinch. Department of Defense officers honored were Capts. Charles Hogue and Robert Johnson.

Hogue, Glass, and Tinch — who were wounded in that attack — also received Purple Hearts.

The award ceremony was at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church, where Gordon Godfrey is pastor.

“We thank you God for those who have stood up and literally faced a bullet,” said Godfrey. “They faced terrorists; they face bad guys on the street every day to keep us safe. And we’re so grateful.”

“We need to remember that courage and sacrifices is not a Republican or Democrat; it’s not white, it’s not black, it’s not Hispanic, or any other ethnic group,” said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. “It’s about duty, and honor, and country.” 

Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan speaks at the ceremony inside Marcus Pointe Baptist Church.

Morgan praised his department for their response to the shooting, and lauded the other law enforcement and first responders arriving on-scene. But thanking them, he conceded, was a small gesture.

“There is more than enough honor and glory to go around,” said the sheriff. “For those of us that responded that morning, it was an amazing thing to see all these various parts integrate and work to the common good, and to the successful resolution of a difficult situation.”

Twenty-one-year-old Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani – a 2nd. Lt. in the Saudi Royal Air Force – used a legally-purchased handgun to kill three fellow students and wound eight others. Alshamrani in turn was shot and killed by Escambia County deputies.

“We know from first-hand accounts that there are many others that morning who placed themselves in harm’s way,” Morgan said. “Rendering first aid; passing along critical information to responding law enforcement, transporting wounded to area hospitals. As well as individual acts of bravery and courage by covering shipmates with their bodies while being shot.”

Then it was time for the awards from Morgan and Chief Deputy Chip Simmons.

“So from this tragedy, the very best of who we are was on display for the world to see,” said Morgan. “Therefore, in recognition of these selfless acts of heroism above and beyond the call of duty, that reflect great credit upon themselves and the profession of law enforcement, the Medal of Valor is awarded.”

Morgan honored — and bid farewell — to the three victims of the attack with a poem from an unknown author about “standing the watch.” 

Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF
Law enforcement officers are honored at a ceremony in Marcus Pointe Baptist Church Friday, Jan. 31.

“Today, we are here to say to those faithful brothers and sisters that came before us, the watch stands relieved,” Morgan read from the poem. “Relieved by those that you have trained, trained with, guided and led. Ensign Joshua K. Watson; Air Crewman Mohammed S. Hathaim, Air Crewman Cameron S. Walters – you stand relieved.”

Meanwhile, access to NAS Pensacola — including the Naval Aviation Museum, Lighthouse, and other popular attractions — continues to be limited to Department of Defense ID card holders and their guests. Base Commander Capt. Tim Kinsella tells the Pensacola News Journal that it’s the plan to reopen the base to the public “in the near future.”