Friday, an Alabama sailor was among the dead in the Pensacola Naval Air Station shooting that left three killed. Among the dead was an Alabamian. Alabama leaders mourned the untimely passing of 23-year old Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson. The shooter was also killed by first responders.
Ensign Watson was shot five times. Despite being mortally wounded, Watson went and found first responders and gave them a detailed description of the assailant as well as his location before succumbing from his wounds. Watson is being credited with the saving of several lives.
“Our state and our nation will forever remember Kaleb Watson as a hero,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) said. “Even after being shot multiple times, he mustered up the strength to direct first responders to the assailant at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. This young man had a full life ahead of him, one with dreams and a promising military career. He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and we will never forget. My prayers remain with his family and loved ones, as well as the many men and women serving in our military here and abroad.”
“Ensign Watson encompassed the very best that Alabama has to offer, and he represented his state proudly to the nation he sought to serve,” Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said in a statement. “All Alabamians are proud to say that Joshua Watson lived his life as a patriot, and he died as a hero.”
Speaker McCutcheon said that the Alabama House will formally recognize his heroism and his military service when they convene the regular session in February.
“On behalf of the membership of the House of Representatives, I extend our prayers of consolation to his family, his friends, and those with whom he served.” McCutcheon concluded.
Former Chief Justice and Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) said, “The passing of Joshua Watson, a graduate of the US Naval Academy is perfectly described in the Alma Mater of WestPoint:
And When our Work is done
Our Course on earth is run
May it be said, ‘Well done’
Be Thou at peace.
Joshua died a hero serving our Country,” Moore concluded, “He rests in the hands of God.”
Judge Roy Moore is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at WestPoint, class of 1969.
Former Attorney General and Senate candidate Jeff Sessions said, “Military Service is dangerous and every soldier, sailor, and airman knows the risks involved in combat to defend and protect the interests of the United States and her people. But those risks should NEVER include being murdered in a classroom on a U.S. Naval base by an Islamic terrorist, a terrorist who is a guest in our country and is receiving training from U.S. military personnel.”
“Three of our finest, including one of our own from right here in Alabama, have been lost,” AG Sessions added. “There is no excuse for this, and it must never happen again. At this time, the Department of Defense should consider suspending the training of all Saudi military personnel, and review the clearly insufficient vetting processes currently in place.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said, “A true hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Prayers of strength and comfort for his family!”
“Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” wrote his brother, Adam Watson. “After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable.”
“He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled,” Adam Watson said.
His father, Benjamin Watson, told reporters that Kaleb, was the officer on deck at the time of the shooting.
“Heavily wounded, he made his way out to flag down first responders and gave an accurate description of the shooter,” Benjamin Watson said. “He died serving his country.”
Benjamin Watson said that his son wanted to become a Navy pilot and reported to Pensacola for flight training the week of Veterans Day.
The shooter was a Saudi national who was at Pensacola Air Station for light training. The shooter reportedly clashed with flight instructors.
The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism.
Original reporting by the Pensacola News Journal contributed to this report.
Former State Sen. David Burkette pleads guilty, avoids jail
Former State Sen. David Burkette will avoid jail time and be sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence as part of a plea deal reached on Monday.
Burkette, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, will also have to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 12 months of probation as part of the deal. He was sentenced in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday after being charged two weeks ago with failing to deposit more than $3,600 in contributions into campaign accounts — a misdemeanor.
He also resigned his seat in the Alabama Senate as part of the plea deal.
“I’m just happy to still be here,” Burkette told the court following his sentencing, according to multiple media reports.
The former senator suffered a stroke in 2018 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. His current health status played a role in his sentence considerations.
The charges against Burkette stem from a series of complaints filed against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission — all of them related to various issues during his time on the Montgomery City Council. The charge for which he pleaded guilty occurred in 2015.
The Ethics Commission referred numerous charges to the Alabama attorney general’s office, according to sources familiar with the investigation of Burkette, but the attorney general’s office elected to charge Burkette with only the misdemeanor as part of the deal that saw him resign.
“Candidates for public office at the state, county and municipal levels must comply with the State’s Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated.”
Governor surveys damage from Hurricane Sally
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held press conferences in Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island after touring the storm damaged Alabama Gulf Coast, which was battered by Hurricane Sally last week.
Three Alabama counties have been approved for individual and public assistance from FEMA. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties were approved for both IA and PA.
“When I was on the coast Friday, it was clear that there has been significant damage, and people are in need of relief,” Ivey said in a statement. “My Office has been working on putting in the request for individual and public assistance to help bring the needed aid, and I appreciate FEMA for quickly delivering to the people of Alabama. Being approved for individual and public assistance is an important step in the recovery process. Coastal Alabama, we are with you the whole way!”
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Doug Jones also toured the damaged areas.
“I appreciate FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor for quickly getting down to Alabama to check out the damage from #Sally,” Byrne said. ”President Trump has already approved Alabama’s request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance, so I encourage everyone to register for help from FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362. Residents of Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties are currently eligible.”
“President Trump and his team have been outstanding to work with in making sure Alabama gets the help we need and deserve,” Byrne continued.
Ivey toured the area by helicopter to survey the damage.
“I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover it is really, really bad,” Ivey said.
Over 200,000 people lost electric power due to Hurricane Sally. Alabama Power said Sunday that more than 99 percent of those people have had their power restored.
“Our electric companies are making progress every hour to restore power,” Byrne said. “A lot more work remains, but know that crews are working hard to get all the power back online. Hurricane Sally caused major damage to our electric infrastructure, and I appreciate all those working to get our lights turned back on.”
Alabama Power said that it may take into early this week to restore power to some portions of downtown Mobile, Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island.
“With the Major Disaster Declaration, individuals may apply for disaster aid from FEMA,” Byrne explained.
You can apply online at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
Even though electric power has been restored, many homes have been severely damaged. Some are a total loss. Most homeowners are still waiting on insurance adjusters to complete their work. There was a lot of roof damage, not just in Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, but also in Foley, Robertsdale, Loxley, Bayou La Batre, Bay Minette and beyond — both from the winds and from the trees that fell.
Some homes near the coast were impacted by the storm surge, but many more well into Baldwin County as well as in Pensacola, Florida, were impacted by flooding. Many people are still in need of supplies for the cleanup as well as daily essentials.
“There are a number of food, water and supply distribution sites across Baldwin County,” Byrne said. “According to Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, these locations have MREs, tarps, bottled water, ice, and other supplies.”
- Baldwin County Coliseum (Robertsdale)
19477 Fairground Road Robertsdale, AL
- Seminole Fire Department
32268 Highway 90 Seminole, AL
- Lillian Community Club
34148 Widell Avenue; Lillian, AL
- Lana Park (Fairhope)
523 Volanta Avenue; Fairhope, AL
- Foley Soccer Complex
18507 US Highway 98; Foley, AL
- Orange Beach Community Center
27235 Canal Road; Orange Beach, AL
- Gulf Shores SportsPlex
19025 Oak Road W; Gulf Shores, AL
On Saturday, literally hundreds of cars lined up to pick up supplies from the Robertstale Church of God in Robertsdale.
Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores before dawn on Wednesday as a category two storm. Forecasters on Saturday had expected the storm to impact Louisiana but the hurricane turned to the northeast and made landfall in Alabama instead, gaining strength before coming ashore.
“No one expected this storm to be that strong,” Ivey said.
Ivey said most of the piers have been destroyed. Alabama’s State Fishing Pier had just finished a $2.5 million renovation. Now a large portion of the pier is missing. Most of the Gulf State Park campground went underwater. A few campers actually weathered the hurricane in their campers.
Debris removal is ongoing.
The Mobile County Commission announced that it will manage Hurricane Sally debris removal from all areas of Mobile County, located outside the 10 municipalities, except for the Town of Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island will be the only municipality to receive hurricane debris removal managed by the county.
To ensure pick-up removal, residents are asked to adhere to the following guidelines: Only Hurricane Sally-related vegetative and construction and demolition (C&D) debris will be collected. That excludes removal of normal household trash, appliances, electronics and household hazardous waste. Debris must be placed curbside or in right-of-way areas that do not block roadways or storm drains. Do not place material in drainage ditches. Vegetative debris should be piled separately from C&D debris material. Vegetative debris includes tree branches, limbs and non-bagged leaves. C&D debris includes building materials, fencing and bagged materials.
Aderholt says low Census response rate will come with big consequences for Alabama
Alabama trails the nation in 2020 Census response and that matters, says Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, in an email to his 4th Congressional District constituents.
“In more ways than we could possibly name, Alabama is the best state in the nation,” Aderholt said. “However, when it comes to the 2020 Census, we are sitting in last place in the country. Currently 81.5% of Alabama households have been counted, but that is nearly 10% less than the national count of 90.1%. I think we can do better, so let’s make Alabama count.”
“Why it Matters. One of the biggest questions asked every decade when the Census comes up is: why does it matter?” Aderholt said. “This is a great question, and I understand why it gets asked so often. So, I want to give you a few different answers that are grounded in facts. Federal Funds: It is estimated that per 100 people not counted in the Census, roughly $1.2 million dollars of federal funding is lost for your community. Here are just a few of the many items that would have funding severely cut due to a lack of Census responses: Schools, roads, hospitals, block grants, vocational education, and fire departments. These are all crucial aspects of living in a community, and they are all at risk of funding decreases.
“Jobs: Census numbers are used by both public and private organizations to determine where to build and bring business. This means that employment opportunities and economic development are at stake when it comes to the Census. This aspect is often overlooked, but it may just be the most consequential of them all. Representation in Congress: You probably know this one already, but Congressional districts are based on population.
“This means that the more people that are counted in your state the more representation your state has in the House of Representatives. For Alabama, we are in danger of losing a Congressional seat, so our count this year matters a great deal. Civil Rights: As a matter of fact, certain programs based around civil rights issues are directly correlated to the Census. Things like compliance with the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, housing, employment, and education anti-discrimination laws are monitored and enforced using the population count from the Census.”
Go to my2020census.gov and follow the instructions on screen, or you can call 844-330-2020.
“I would encourage you all to fill yours out today and make Alabama count for the next decade,” Aderholt said. ‘If you have already completed your Census, please tell your friends and family to fills theirs out and spread the word.”
Aderholt explained that the Census first started in 1790 and was conducted by Thomas Jefferson. The nation then had a population of just 3,929,214, compared to roughly 328 million today.
“From 1790 to 1879, the Census was counted by Federal Marshals going door-to-door across the country,” Aderholt explained. “Back then they would show up to your house on horseback and fill out the numbers on parchment or animal skin. Although this sounds pretty cool to me, I am sure glad we can do it on our phones now. The Census started out with only 6 questions, then rose to 34 in 1920, but has settled back down to an even 10 the past couple decades.”
The state of Alabama has seven congressional districts currently, but it appears that the state is likely to lose at least one, given the state’s modest growth over the last decade and the people of Alabama’s awful Census response rate.
Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces a general election challenge from Democratic candidate Rick Neighbors.
More than 99 percent of power customers have power restored following Sally
Alabama Power said Sunday that 99 percent of customers who lost power in Hurricane Sally have had their power restored.
Alabama Power made the announcement on Twitter Sunday evening. “Alabama Power and assisting crews have restored power to 99% of customers able to receive it following the destruction of Hurricane Sally,” the company said.
More than 4,000 line workers and support personnel from 14 states are helping Alabama Power crews restore power to people of Mobile and Baldwin Counties following Wednesday’s Hurricane Sally. By Friday, outages in Central and Southeast Alabama had been resolved and all efforts were focused on the Mobile and Baldwin County areas, which took the brunt of the storm.
APR was among the reporters touring the area with Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday. Downed power lines were still everywhere but so were convoys of bucket trucks with linemen repairing and in some cases completely rebuilding destroyed power lines.
Hurricane Sally was the first Hurricane to make landfall in the state of Alabama since 2004. The eye of Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores but the impact was felt across the Alabama Gulf coast, and beyond, into Florida and Mississippi.
“Hurricane Sally will be remembered as the most damaging storm to affect Mobile since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we worked to restore power, and we’re committed to working alongside community leaders on full recovery efforts for the area.”
Forecasters had predicted Sally to make landfall in Louisiana as a tropical storm but the storm made a sudden turn to the northeast, gaining strength as it moved just off the coast. Sally made landfall as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds.
“Nobody expected that storm to be so strong,” Ivey told reporters on Friday.
Despite rainy conditions on Saturday, crews worked through the inclement weather conditions from Tropical Storm Beta, which was offshore. Beta is expected to make landfall in Texas and then turn sharply to the northeast, impacting Louisiana before breaking up.
Beta will bring more rainfall to the Alabama Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from the heavy rains and damage caused by Sally. Beta is already causing dangerous riptides off the Alabama coast. Many Texans who had evacuated from their homes due to Hurricane Laura had to evacuate again on Sunday due to Beta.
Alabama Power said that restoration efforts in the hardest-hit areas including downtown Mobile, Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre may extend into early this week.
Alabama Power is part of the Southern Company.