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Base security in spotlight again after deadly shooting

'Heroic' sailor praised as investigation begins

Mar. 30, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Security officers wore black bands on their badges during a news conference in front of the destroyer Mahan at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on March 26, two days after a shooting left a master-at-arms and his attacker dead.
Security officers wore black bands on their badges during a news conference in front of the destroyer Mahan at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on March 26, two days after a shooting left a master-at-arms and his attacker dead. (Steve Earley / The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
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Mayo (AP / via Navy)
Savage (AP / via Navy)

A civilian trucker with no authorization to be on base shot and killed a sailor aboard the destroyer Mahan on the night of March 24 while it was moored on Pier 1 at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., in what is the latest troubling breach of Navy base security.

Jeffery Tyrone Savage, 35, an ex-convict who’d served time for voluntary manslaughter and other felonies, gained access to the base and then the pier, where he shot and killed Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark Mayo with a gun he’d stripped from another sailor, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said.

Mayo, 24, the chief of the guard, dove in front of the petty officer of the watch after Savage took her weapon, according to the Navy’s account. Savage was then killed by the ship’s roving sentry.

Two days after the tragedy, the Navy said it has opened up a command investigation into security lapses at the base, where about 46,000 sailors and 21,000 civilian government employees and contractors serve.

Capt. Robert Clark, the commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk, said in a statement March 26 that Mayo’s actions made him a hero.

“Petty Officer Mayo’s actions on Monday evening were nothing less than heroic. He selflessly gave his own life to ensure the safety of the sailors on board USS Mahan,” Clark said.

Still, the shooting death has renewed concerns about security on Navy installations only a week after the release of reports into the Sept. 16 shooting rampage on the Washington Navy Yard that left a dozen dead; the reports uncovered evidence that officials failed to flag troubling behavior by the gunman earlier.

Savage’s motivations for storming the Mahan and attacking the watchstanders were unclear as of March 28.

'No reason or authorization'

Savage, a Chesapeake resident and employee of North Carolina-based Majette Trucking, drove his 2002 Freightliner on to the base around 11 p.m. March 24 after flashing a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential, NCIS said. But the TWIC alone shouldn’t have been sufficient to grant him access.

“The NCIS investigation has confirmed that Savage had no reason or authorization to be on Naval Station Norfolk,” NCIS said in a March 27 news release. “The chain of events that allowed Savage entry to the installation and the ship are under investigation.”

People with criminal records for some crimes are allowed to have a TWIC card, as long as they have been out of prison for at least five years, according to TSA's website. However, applicants can also apply for a waiver.

Since the program started in 2007, about 132,000 people were disqualified and about half of those who appealed or asked for waivers received them. The Rich Square, N.C.-based Majette Trucking did not respond to a message seeking comment March 27. According to federal records, the company has four drivers and four trucks that carry refrigerated goods. The company is licensed for interstate business.

On March 24, Savage was confronted by at least three levels of security: the front gate guards, the pier sentry on Pier 1 and the Mahan quarterdeck watch, which also has armed watchstanders.

Savage had a history of run-ins with the law and jail time, court and arrest records show.

Savage was arrested in Portsmouth, Va., at the age of 26 on a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Police then discovered Savage was wanted in Charlotte, N.C., in connection with the slaying of a man who had been dumped beside an interstate entrance ramp, according to an article in the Charlotte Observer.

Savage and Maurice Griffin, 30, of Virginia, had been riding in a vehicle when they began to struggle over a weapon, according to Keith Acree of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. It fired, hitting Griffin, who was then left on the side of the road.

In 2008, Savage pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a minimum of 46 months in a prison, court records show.

He was released Dec. 30, 2009, after being given credit for time already served, according to North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety.

Previously, Savage served five years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., on a felony conviction for selling crack cocaine.

In addition, Savage was arrested in Norfolk in 2005 for drunk and disorderly conduct, drunk in public, and obstruction of justice.

Virginia regulatory filings show Savage had registered a limited liability company in his name last year. The company also received a business license in the city of Chesapeake for lawn care and debris removal service, according the office of the city's commissioner of revenue.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles could not say whether Savage had a valid commercial driver's license, citing privacy laws. The license would have allowed Savage to drive a commercial vehicle such as a tractor-trailer.

The Mahan’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Zoah Scheneman, said he was thankful for Mayo and credited him with safeguarding the Mahan and his shipmates, at a March 27 news conference. Scheneman added that sailors “drill constantly” to prepare to confront threats such as the one posed by Savage.

Staff writer Meghann Myers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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