Investigators ‘did not establish any motive’ in last year’s Pearl Harbor shooting but find risk factors went unidentified

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The U.S. Navy has released its final report into December’s deadly shooting at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. From the 200-page document, it was revealed that investigators could not find a motive for the shooting. But it does include several potential contributing factors.

[Hawaii’s Breaking News–Download the FREE KHON2 app for iOS or Android]

On December 4, U.S. Navy Sailor Gabriel Romero arrived at the USS Columbia at 2:04 p.m. for his roving patrol. During patrol, in his possession–an M-4 rifle and an M-9 pistol.

Department of Navy provided photos of the USS Columbia entering Dry Dock 2 (image on left) and the USS Columbia in Dry Dock 2 basin (image on right). Those on the app, click here.

Eleven minutes later he walked from one side of the dock to the other, raised his M-4 rifle and began firing at 49-year-old Roldan Agustin, 36-year-old Roger Nakamine and 30-year-old Vincent Kapoi, Jr. from behind.

The sailor then turned the M-9 pistol on himself—the entire incident lasting just seconds.

Agustin and Kapoi died at the hospital. Nakamine survived.

Figure shows actions from watch relief to shooting incident based on interviews and evidence.

Several investigators noted there was nothing in Romero’s background to indicate he would become an inside threat. However, the report lists potential indicators.

  • Romero was isolated and withdrawn from his shipmates.
  • In May or June 2019 he said he was tired of work and angry about shipmates calling him stupid.
  • In August or early September a shipmate suggested counseling support for Romero and he got angry and yelled.
  • A lieutenant noticed he had scratches on his knuckles. Romero said it was from hitting a locker.
  • Romero had poor work performance–he was delinquent on qualifications and had ten counseling chits–the second most in the command.
  • On November 21 he began to cry when he was questioned by chief petty officers about his tardiness.
  • The sailor had ongoing disciplinary problems and went to a Disciplinary Review Board in late November.
  • On November 26 he was told he did not advance to paygrade E-4.
  • The day before the shooting he went to an Executive Officer Inquiry where the executive officer warned him he would go to non-judicial punishment if he was late again for work.

Romero sought medical help eight times from September to November but only one was a licensed provider. The report states “Manning shortages at EMHP contributed to the lack of proper oversight.”

A forensic psychiatrist found Romero was likely under-diagnosed. The psychiatrist identified Romero had a pattern of behavior associated with a mental disorder which would have disqualified him from submarine duty which he was aiming to achieve.

Romero even drew circles stating he almost always had difficulty concentrating, frequently felt something was wrong with his mind and sometimes had disturbing thoughts in mind that he couldn’t get rid of.

On the day of the shooting Romero was not security briefed, which is required, although he qualified to handle weapons, the report states.

He was not re-screened on that basis despite risk factors known to the Navy including his mental health, two single motor vehicle accidents within a year, general isolation from shipmates, delinquent qualifications, repeated counseling, a disciplinary review board, failure to advance to E-4 and an executive officer inquiry the day before the shooting.

The report also states Romero confided in his mother about being unhappy at work. But all agencies found there was no motive into killing Agustin, Kapoi or himself and firing at Nakamine that day.

The investigating officer notes Romero was solely responsible for the incident but writes “even if all of Romero’s mental health, personal issues, and grievances had been known and taken into consideration, no one could have reasonably predicted that he would engage in this ultimate act of murder and suicide.”

Latest Stories on KHON2

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories