Officials have identified the Navy sailor who on Wednesday shot three people, killing two of them, before taking his own life as 22-year-old Gabriel Romero, according to the Associated Press and other sources.
The mid-afternoon shooting at a Pearl Harbor drydock area was a rare instance of gun violence in a state that hasn’t seen the frequency of mass shootings that plague the mainland.
The shooter was identified Thursday as 22-year-old G. Romero, according to The Associated Press. Sources told Hawaii News Now the assailant’s first name is Gabriel.
The AP also reported that officials say he used his service weapon in the shooting.
Tara Kapoi told The Associated Press that her 30-year-old husband, Vincent Kapoi Jr., was one of those killed. She said he worked at the shipyard and grew up in Waianae.
“We don’t know what happened,” she said Thursday, asking for privacy.
“He was one of the good guys out there.” – Daniel Vu, victim’s college roommate
Names of the other victims have not been released, and the motive remains unclear. It wasn’t known if the sailor and the three men he shot who worked for the U.S. Department of Defense knew each other, according to Rear Adm. Robb Chadwick who spoke at a news conference on Wednesday evening.
“We have no indication yet whether they were targeted or if it was a random shooting,” Chadwick said.
Kapoi was a 2007 graduate of Kamehameha Schools. He graduated from the University of San Fransisco in 2011, according to his college roommate Daniel Vu.
Vu described Kapoi as a “family guy” who was soft-spoken and extremely hardworking, known for waking up at 3 a.m. in college to work at the fishing docks to pay for tuition. He was proud of his Native Hawaiian and Filipino heritage, according to Vu.
“He was very giving, very generous and willing to sacrifice a lot,” Vu said. “He was one of the good guys out there.”
The two men hadn’t spoken in several years until they reconnected a few weeks ago, Vu said. In addition to his work with the defense department, Kapoi told Vu he was passionate about his side project, a wealth management business and podcast.
Kapoi had just gotten married earlier this year, according to Vu.
“It’s so sad,” Vu said.
Identifying information on the other victims hasn’t been released. The wounded victim, a 36-year-old man, was hospitalized and is in stable condition.
Romero, the shooter, was assigned to the fast attack submarine USS Columbia, which is at the base for maintenance.
It wasn’t immediately known what type of weapon he used or how many shots were fired. Chadwick said that was part of the investigation. Personal weapons are not allowed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where 52,000 civilian and military personnel work, according to the Navy.
In 2018, there were 541 U.S. military service members who died by suicide, according to the Department of Defense’s first annual suicide report issued in September.
Service members who died by suicide tended to be enlisted, less than 30 years of age and male. The majority died by gunshot.
The report is newly required as a means of establishing an official source of suicide counts and rates in the military toward the goal of boosting transparency and, ultimately, prevention.
Over five years, the suicide rate climbed from 18.5 suicides per 100,000 active duty service members in 2013 to 24.8 suicides per 100,000 active duty service members in 2018.
In October, Sen. Mazie Hirono joined a bipartisan group of senators in calling on the DOD to address the increasing suicide rate. The senators asked for an analysis of any gaps in access to suicide prevention programs and mental health care for members of the National Guard as opposed to other military branches no later than this December.
“While the investigation into this incident continues, my thoughts and aloha are with the victims of the terrible tragedy at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and with their families,” Hirono said in a statement Wednesday. “I join all of Hawaii in expressing our gratitude to the first responders who rush toward danger every day to keep us safe.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is offering counselors to those in need: Pearl Harbor Chaplain: 473-3971
Emergency Family Assistance Center: 866-525-6676
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is offering counselors to those in need:
Pearl Harbor Chaplain: 473-3971
There were 132 suicides among military members in the first quarter of 2019, according to the most current data available. This represents an 11% increase in suicides of active duty service members from the previous year.
Mass shootings and gun violence are rare in Hawaii, although recently Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard has said she is concerned that gun violence and gun crime is on the rise on Oahu.
Still, Hawaii had the lowest gun death rate among the states in 2017, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The islands have strict firearms laws, including a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.
In 1999, a Xerox service technician shot and killed seven coworkers in Hawaii. In 2006, a man fatally shot his taxi driver and a couple taking photos of the city lights from a lookout point in the hills above Honolulu.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the White House has offered assistance from federal agencies and that the state is also ready to help if needed.
“I join in solidarity with the people of Hawaii as we express our heartbreak over this tragedy and concern for those affected by the shooting,” Ige said in a statement.
The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard repairs, maintains and modernizes the ships and submarines of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which is headquartered at Pearl Harbor. The base is the home port for 10 destroyers and 15 submarines. It also hosts Air Force units.
The shipyard is across the harbor from the wreckage of the USS Arizona, which sank in the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack. It’s also across from the visitors center, which will host a ceremony on Saturday to honor the more than 2,300 Americans killed in the bombing.
Civil Beat reporter Brittany Lyte and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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