FREDERICK, Md. – A Navy medic who shot and wounded two U.S. sailors before he was killed by police on a nearby Army base was a laboratory technician assigned to a Naval medical research center on the base, according to his service record and a military official.
Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet, 38, and the two men he shot Tuesday at a government-leased military warehouse were all assigned to Fort Detrick in Frederick, authorities have said.
Employees at Nicolock Paving Stones, a business located in the same office park as the warehouse, assisted one of the wounded sailors, Navy Hospitalman Casey Nutt, 26, of Germantown, Maryland, after he fled the scene of the initial shooting. Nutt was released from a hospital on Tuesday evening, authorities said in a news release.
Garett Wagner, operations manager at Nicolock Paving Stones, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Nutt was covered in blood and holding his chest. Nutt also said the shooter was following him, recalled Wagner, who said he told the sailor to run to a bathroom and shut the door.”
Wagner recalled that Nutt was terrified. "His eyes were so wide open,” he said. “It was overwhelming.”
Police officers found the other wounded sailor — Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Carlos Portugal, 36, of Frederick — in the warehouse. He remained in critical condition on Wednesday at the same Baltimore trauma center where Nutt was treated, according to the joint news release from police, military officials and the FBI.
Authorities haven’t disclosed a possible motive for the shooting.
“We’re still trying to sort through stacks of paper ... to figure out exactly what the motive would be,” Frederick Police Lt. Andrew Alcorn said Tuesday.
Wagner said the gunman clearly “wanted this young man dead” based on what he saw on surveillance video that captured the wounded sailor ducking and trying to hide before he entered the building. He said the gunman's vehicle stopped outside Nicolock Paving Stones for about a minute before peeling out and leaving.
“That wasn’t random. He was being hunted down. And that guy wanted to finish the job,” Wagner said.
Woldesenbet worked as a lab technician in the Naval Medical Research Center’s Biological Defense Research Directorate at Fort Detrick, Navy Cmdr. Denver Applehans, a spokesman for the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, said Wednesday. The Naval Medical Research Center’s headquarters are in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Woldesenbet’s service record says he enlisted in September 2012 and reported to his most recent position in August 2019. In between, he served at military facilities in San Antonio, Texas; Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; Bremerton, Washington; and Portsmouth, Virginia.
Woldesenbet was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, his record shows. It lists his rank as Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class.
Portugal enlisted in 2006 and has been assigned to the Navy Medical Research Center in Frederick since September 2020; Nutt enlisted in 2018 and has had the same assignment since October 2019, according to their Navy service records.
The shooting took place at a warehouse rented by the research directorate to store supplies and equipment. The warehouse is located in the Riverside Tech Park, an office park several miles from the Army base. The warehouse is not staffed on a regular basis and is leased by a military contractor, Applehans said.
Woldesenbet shot the sailors with a rifle, police and military officials said. He then drove to the base, where gate guards who had been given advance notice told him to pull over for a search. But Woldesenbet immediately sped off, making it about a half-mile into the installation before he was stopped at a parking lot by the base’s police force. When he pulled out a weapon, the police shot and killed him, Fort Detrick's Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley said.
Fort Detrick is home to the military’s flagship biological defense laboratory and several federal civilian biodefense labs. About 10,000 military personnel and civilians work on the base, which encompasses about 1,300 acres (526 hectares) in the city of Frederick.
Woldesenbet lived at an apartment building in Frederick, a few miles from the site of the shooting. Police cordoned off the apartment on Tuesday afternoon and a neighbor reported seeing officials escorting his wife and children from the building.
The Navy says it is sending a “Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team” to Fort Detrick to offer mental health services to people on the base.
“The Fort Detrick community is here to offer support as our brave sailors heal from this tragic incident,” Talley said in a statement Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Gregory Jackson, the Army base’s chaplain, said in a Facebook post that the shootings leave a lasting mark on the Fort Detrick community “with a lot of questions, and the biggest will be why?”
“Why did this person choose to do what he did?” he asked. “I wish we had answers to these questions, but, we don’t always know the reason.”
Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland. Associated Press journalist Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans contributed to this report.