Lax security led to sailor's shooting death at Navy's Norfolk Naval Station, report finds

The investigation into a 2014 shooting at the Norfolk Naval Station that left one sailor dead faults security lapses as the cause of the tragedy.

The Navy Times reported Sunday that the Navy’s command investigation of the incident at the world's largest naval base blamed guards for letting disturbed civilian Jeffrey Tyrone Savage gain access to the base that night. Savage made his way to a ship where he wrestled a gun away from a sailor standing watch. He then killed Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo as he responded to the commotion.

Navy security killed Savage, who appeared intoxicated and had no legitimate reason to be on the base. His motives for being there are not known. Savage had served time in prison for convictions on manslaughter and drug charges.

“Gate 5 personnel were clearly negligent in the performance of their duties, and there is a gross lack of procedural compliance, accountability and oversight of the civilian police force,” the report obtained by the Navy Times said.

A guard let Savage on the base without asking for any identification, thinking the man wanted to make a U-turn. The guard then waited 9 minutes to look for Savage. Guards at the pier and aboard the ship were never told someone had gained unauthorized access to the base.

The Navy Times said that Adm. William Gortney, the Fleet Forces Command boss at the time, offered a qualified endorsement of the report. The paper said Gortney disagreed with the report’s findings that some security procedures worked during the incident.

“The multiple defense layers intended to protect the ship and the people on it failed to protect those people; they were not even warned until the suspect was already in the vicinity of (the USS) Mahan’s brow….Lives were lost, and Navy personnel and critical assets were exposed to unnecessary risk,” the admiral said. “This was an unacceptable security failure, and improvements in our security program are required to ensure this never happens again.”

Gortney also hailed Mayo’s courageousness in trying to stop Savage.

"Petty Officer Mayo's bravery and selfless protection of his shipmates cannot be overstated," he wrote.

Mayo was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the Navy.

The report recommended tightening security at Gate 5. The guards now check the National Crime Information Center database and will deny access to anyone with a criminal record.

Four Gate 5 sentries were relieved of law enforcement duties and their guns for periods ranging from one week to four months. The guard who let Savage on the base remains “red-tagged,” the Navy Times said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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