Al-Shamrani, who was killed by the sheriff’s deputies, worked with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for five years to plan the attack on December 6, 2019, U.S. authorities said in May after encrypting his phone.
The families also accused the Trump administration and the Saudi government of waiving promises of support for families.
“In the eyes of the American people, there is no greater betrayal than the realization that an alleged ally is in fact an enemy,” the trial claims. It seeks compensation for an attack that families say was caused by Saudi Arabia, and its intentional or grossly negligent actions in sending a terrorist operative “Trojan horse” into a U.S. program to train pilots flying billions of dollars sold warplanes.
“I think they knew he was trying to destroy the American people and that he was a terrorist. Innocent lives were losses. It should never have hampered, ”said Evelyn Brady, a 20-year-old naval veteran whose son, Airman printer Mohammed Haitham, 19, was killed as he ran unarmed toward the shooter with his hands up and begged him to stop.
“They had to take care of the families. … They have done nothing, ”said Brady, who is represented with other plaintiffs by law firms led by Kreindler & Kreindler, who are also suing the kingdom on behalf of victims and survivors from 9/11.
A U.S.-based lawyer for the Saudi government and spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The trial comes as US-Saudi relations have fallen to a new low since January, with the new Biden administration canceling arms sales, criticizing human rights abuses and harassment of dissidents and promising to “calibrate” ties to the kingdom and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A State Department spokesman said it declined to comment on the pending trial, but the Pensacola family’s accusations complicate further ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia. There are also pending federal lawsuits against the prince and other Saudis from Khashoggi’s fiancé and by a former Saudi intelligence officer and close US intelligence ally now living in Canada, who claim he was also targeted for murder.
Saudi Arabia has often been targeted by terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, which carried out major attacks beginning in 2003, and more recently by attackers sympathetic to the Islamic State group. Attacks are aimed at government facilities, Westerners stationed in the kingdom and members of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority who are considered heretics by hardline Sunni Muslims.
In January 2020, then-Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the 15-minute rampage at the Florida base was an act of terrorism, with the FBI concluding that Shamrani was motivated by “jihadist ideology.”
Barr and aides said that while it was originally reported that Shamrani arrived at the shooting range along with others filming it, he actually arrived alone and that the investigation had found no evidence that anyone else was dealing with him.
Barr said 21 cadets from Saudi Arabia, including 12 from the Pensacola base, were cut off from their training and would return to the kingdom after US officials said they found evidence that 17 Saudis had shared Islamist or anti-American material through social media. Fifteen – including some of those who had shared anti-American material – turned out to have had contact with or had child pornography.
Barr said U.S. lawyers had reviewed every single case and determined that such people would not normally be charged with federal crimes.
The families’ Pensacola lawsuit makes more specific allegations. They claim that Saudi authorities knew about radicalization and anti-American and anti-Jewish statements from Shamrani – an al-Qaida operator who in at least 2015 made his first contact with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula – which he shared via Twitter.
Shamrani was nonetheless one of two out of hundreds of students in his Royal Saudi Air Force Academy class who awarded a scholarship to participate in a joint military training program in the United States, the suit claims.
It also claims that the Saudi commander at the base and 11 other trainees he did not name knew that Shamrani bought and stored a 9mm pistol and ammunition at the base in violation of US and Saudi policy; and that Saudi officials left the commander-in-chief unfilled from September 2019 until after the shooting.
“None of the Royal Saudi Air Force trainees at the scene reported Shamrani’s behavior, nor did they try to stop the NAS terrorist attack because they supported it,” the suit claims.
On September 11, Shamrani sent a message on social media in which he said, “The countdown has begun,” and later that month sent a copy of his will to AQ to explain the impending attack, the case claims. That Thanksgiving weekend, the case said, al-Shamrani visited the New York City Memorial for those killed on September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The clothing claims that during the visit, the interns “discussed the plans for the NAS Pensacola Terrorist Attack.” It is also alleged that on December 5, the night before the attack, Shamrani hosted a dinner party for fellow students, where he screened videos of mass shootings and discussed his plans for the next day.
At least three trainees attending the dinner called the sick the next morning, one of whom stood outside the building and recorded the shooting on his cell phone while two others watched from a nearby car, the suit claims.
That so many interns were at least sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and that several were “actually accomplices,” shows their belief that their extremist views “were a promotion of [the kingdom’s] political and religious goals, ”the case claims.
Killed in the attack was Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, of Enterprise, Ala., A recent graduate of the Naval Academy; Haitham, from St. Petersburg, Fla; and Airman printer Cameron Walters, 21, of Bryan County, Ga., days removed from boot camp and served his first day on duty as Shamrani jerked from behind and shot in the back of the head.
Four name service members, an officer from the Navy, seven sheriff’s deputies and a defense minister, police officer wounded in the attack, also came into the case. Two are partially disabled for life, including Airman George Johnson, 26, and Jessica Pickett, 20. Johnson, a single parent who now needs a cane, was hit seven times, including a bullet that was blocked by a metal “I love you ”Card from his mother in the wallet. Pickett, a Marine veteran and civilian employee, was hit nine times and has a metal bar in her left leg, ag in her femur and requires a walker or wheelchair.
After expressing terrorist views for two years before being elected to a coveted castle, they trained abroad to become pilots, “An officer in their uniform murdered three Americans,” said Walter’s father, Shane Walters, 47 , a former Navy F-18 Hornet mechanic. and sales team manager at Gulfstream Aerospace.
“Why? How did he get here? They must have known. … It’s a shame,” Walters said.
Walters condemned the Trump administration for not prioritizing “acting face-to-face” with the Saudis over the attacks. He also reprimanded former President Donald Trump and the Saudi royal family for never personally speaking to the families of the slain or wounded U.S. service members.
The Trump administration was preoccupied with striking new weapons and diplomatic agreements, coding Saudi Arabia “in a way that no president has ever done. “I do not think my son’s killing or Mo’s killing or Joshua’s killing was a top priority,” Walters said.
The garment claimed that Saudi Arabia added “insult to harm”, ignoring or reprimanding any attempt to discuss the family’s allegations, as it allegedly promised in return that the U.S. would allow Saudi officers in Pensacola to return home immediately instead of being exposed. for further investigation. .
The complaint quoted then-President Trump and told reporters after a phone call with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud: “The king will be involved in taking care of the families and loved ones. … also the Crown Prince. They are devastated by what happened in Pensacola. And I think they will help the families a lot. ”
However, “neither the U.S. government nor the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” contacted my family or talked to the other families, “Walters said. After the attacks, representatives of his son’s last private employer came to Walters’ home to give him two challenge coins from the vice president, Walters said. “One for me and one for my wife. They could not do it themselves.”
Foreign governments and leaders are typically immune to civil cases in U.S. courts while in office. The trial, however, cited exceptions for terrorism and for victims of Saudi Arabia. It also cited a 1991 law called the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows for use in U.S. courts for violations of international law and for victims of “blatant human rights violations,” including torture and brief execution abroad.
Kareem Fahim contributed to this report.