TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Joshua Watson had just graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and looked forward to a military career as a pilot. On Saturday, he was being hailed a hero, as his family recounted how the 23-year-old — in his last minutes of life — led first responders to an active shooter at the Pensacola naval base.
In a Facebook post, his brother Adam said Watson saved countless lives with his own.
“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” Adam Watson wrote on Facebook.
“He died a hero,” he said, “and we are beyond proud but there is a whole in our hearts that can never be filled.”
The anguish spread from Pensacola and into communities across the country, as fellow Americans shared in the shock and grief of Friday’s shooting that left four people dead, including the shooter.
Civilian workers Roldan Agustin, 49, and Vincent Kapoi Jr., 30, were also killed in the attack.
Eight others were injured in the shooting.
It hit particularly hard in Enterprise, Alabama, where Watsons family was preparing Saturday morning to drive 130 miles to the military base in Florida’s Panhandle.
“I’m just an emotional wreck,” his father, Benjamin, told The Associated Press.
“We want my son’s story told,” he said.
In an account he shared earlier with the Pensacola News Journal, his son was shot at least five times. Though wounded, the young officer flagged down first responders and described the shooter.
Watson was taken to a hospital but died of his injuries. The family says he died a hero, and friends ask for prayers during this time.
“He died serving his country,” the elder Watson said of his son.
Benjamin Watson told the News Journal that his son had reported to Pensacola two weeks ago for flight training to live out his dream of becoming a Navy pilot.
Adam Watson wrote nostalgically of his brother, who also went by his middle name Kaleb.
“When we were little I gave Kaleb the name little poot and it stuck. It eventually evolved into pootis and finally uncle poot,” he wrote on Facebook. “Just wish I could talk to him one more time or wrestle with him one more time even though he could probably take me now.”
Agustin was born in Laoag City, Philippines, and moved to Hawaii when he was 2, according to his mother, Aida Agustin.
“He’s a good man,” she told The Associated Press through tears.
“I’m so sorry, anak ko, I’m still shaking,” she added Friday, using the phrase “my child” in Ilocano, a Filipino language.
Family members said Roldan Agustin served in the Navy and retired from the Army National Guard, then became a metals inspector at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
In a statement, his brother said Agustin enjoyed working on cars with his friends and spending time with family.
“We will forever remember Roldan to be humble and honest, and a generous and patient man,” the statement said.
Tara Kapoi said her husband, Vincent, grew up in Waianae, a town on the west side of Oahu.
“We don’t know what happened,” she said Thursday, asking for privacy.
A family statement described him as an “easy-going, fun-loving, ‘let’s do this’ man.”
His sister, Theona Kapoi, spoke to the media after her brother was killed.
“The loss of a son, uncle, friend, and brother — my brother Vincent — he will always be that easy-going, fun-loving, “let’s do this” man that will remain in our hearts,” she said.
Services were scheduled for Dec. 15.
He was a metals inspector apprentice, the Navy said.
College roommate Daniel Vu described Kapoi as a soft-spoken and hardworking “family guy” who woke up at 3 a.m. to work at the fishing docks to pay for tuition. Kapoi graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2011 and was proud of his Native Hawaiian and Filipino heritage, Vu told news website Honolulu Civil Beat.
“He was very giving, very generous and willing to sacrifice a lot,” Vu said.
FBI special agent Rachel Rojas said the investigation is still ongoing due to the size of the crime scene. They also have no motive yet.