Two years after the Pensacola air base terror attack, Navy veteran George Johnson, 27, can still remember the moment he came face-to-face with Saudi Arabian Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani, who shot and killed three and injured eight others.
“I looked him dead in the eye. He looks into the office and passes me, doesn’t say a word, but a smirk,” Johnson recalled.
During the early morning hours of Dec. 6, 2019, Alshamrani walked into a pilot training school at the Pensacola Naval Base and opened fire.
The first shots were fired at the watch station at the training school in building 633. Sailors Kaleb Watson, 23, and Cameron Walters, 21, were killed while standing guard.
Later, Alshamrani shot and killed 19-year-old sailor Mohammed Haitham, who had confronted the shooter.
Watch the full story on a special edition of “Nightline” TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC.
Alshamrani, 21, was a Saudi Arabian Air Force Officer training at the U.S. Navy base in Florida.
He was a part of a pilot training program where Saudi officers and other foreign pilots were learning how to fly American fighter jets on the base. The program was tied to billions of dollars in U.S. arms sales to the country.
Secretly, Alshamrani had pledged allegiance to terrorist group Al Quaeda.
Following the shooting, Saudi Arabia condemned the attack, extended its condolences and pledged cooperation with the U.S. In a statement, they said the “perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi people, who count the American people as friends and allies.”
But the victims and their families are now suing the kingdom, alleging it either knew or should have known about Alshamrani’s terrorist ties.
“It makes me so angry. America has been betrayed,” said Navy veteran Jessica Pickett, a mother of four, who was shot nine times by Alshamrani.
Like Pickett, Johnson was also inside the pilot training building that morning, when Alshamrani arrived. After the first shots were fired, he said he hid underneath his desk and prayed.
“In my wallet, there was a metal card that my mom gave me right before I went to boot camp and it had a message on it wishing me good luck and safe return,” Johnson said.
Little did his mother know that the metal card would later save her son’s life. Alshamrani shot Johnson seven times and a bullet that likely would have killed him was stopped by the precious keepsake.
“She had no idea,” he said. “This was my armor.”
Hear more from the survivors and what happened in the Pensacola attack on a special edition of “Nightline” TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC.