Military releases official photo of suspect in Pearl Harbor shipyard shooting
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The military has released the official photo of the U.S. Navy sailor who used his service weapons in a shooting at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard last week.
Two civilians were killed in the shooting and a third was wounded before 22-year-old Gabriel Romero turned a gun on himself.
Hawaii News Now initially requested a photo of Romero on Thursday and renewed the request on Friday. The boot camp photo of Romero was released to HNN on Monday around 6:45 a.m.
The photo release comes after military officials Friday refused to elaborate on why the service member was armed at a time when he was facing a disciplinary hearing.
Multiple sources confirmed to Hawaii News Now that Romero, of Texas, was having disciplinary problems at work and had previously been enrolled in anger management courses. Romero was also facing non-judicial punishment, a lower-level administrative process for misconduct.
In a brief news conference Friday at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, military officials again offered condolences to the victims and released a timeline of the shooting ― saying it all happened in just 23 seconds ― but refused to answer questions about Romero’s military history, or if processes were followed when Romero was assigned an armed watch.
Romero was assigned to the USS Columbia, submarine home ported at Pearl Harbor and that is undergoing drydock repairs. On the vessel, he was a machinist’s mate auxiliary fireman.
Sources have told HNN that Romero was up for a captain’s mast, a military proceeding that is below a court martial.
Hawaii News Now has repeatedly asked the Navy why Romero was provided access to weapons and still assigned to guard the USS Columbia. Navy officials refused to answer those questions directly instead citing the investigation.
A spokesman Monday did respond to one of Hawaii News Now’s questions regarding the process for a sailor to join the Submarine Force. Charles Anthony said in a statement that all undergo mental health screening for anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.
“If a potential Submariner exceeds one of more of the test’s referral thresholds, that individual is referred for an interview with a mental health clinician. The mental health clinician uses the results of the test and their interview to ensure the proper level of care is provided to the individual, as indicated. A recommendation will then be made to keep the Submariner in training, refer them to Naval Service other than in the Submarine Force, or separate them from the Navy,” Anthony’s statement read.
Eugene Fidell, a Yale Law School instructor of military justice, says there have been other instances where the military didn’t react quickly enough to red flags.
“Military personnel have been trained at a great expense to the taxpayers,” Fidell said, "If they have someone who is not towing the line or in other words, having difficulty performing the job and they may have to get rid of that person, they may be slow to get rid of that person.”
Fidell pointed out that sentry duty, or armed watches are important details and called it concerning that the Navy would put a sailor undergoing anger management classes on an armed watch.
Romero joined the Navy on December 11, 2017, according to military records. After graduating Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes, Illinois, and Navy Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut, he reported to the USS Columbia on June 28, 2018.
Romero is originally from San Antonio, Texas.
Wednesday at about 2:15 p.m. Romero fatally shot Vincent Kapoi, Jr. and Roldan Agustin.
A third shooting victim, Roger Nakamine, 36, remains hospitalized, his condition is stable.
Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.