Mohammed Haitham Remembered As Avid Runner, Peacemaker, Aspiring Pilot
Nineteen-year-old Mohammed Haitham was one of three people killed on Friday at the Pensacola Naval Base. Over the weekend, family and friends remembered the St. Petersburg native as an avid runner who loved to make others laugh, and who had recently decided to follow in his mother's footsteps by joining the military.
His first name was Mohammed, but he often went by Mo. He came home to St. Petersburg, on a surprise visit at Thanksgiving. His cousin, Ashley Williams, said that was the last time she saw him.
"Being a pilot was actually something he, you know, dreamed of doing. Jumping out of planes," Williams said.
His mother was a Navy veteran, and she was proud of his decision.
Williams says her cousin was more like a brother to her. He was often joking around and teasing her.
"He was a comedian. He would tease everyone about their height because he like sprouted overnight," she said.
Standing at 6-foot-3, he towered over many people. He had a protective streak, and also loved to sing. Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," was his favorite. But his cousin falls short of saying he had a great voice.
"Um, karaoke voice," she said with a laugh.
Billy Kline, who ran track with him at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, also recalled his sense of humor.
"I wasn't the fastest runner of course when I first started, but he would always be the one to encourage everyone, get everyone through a tough workout... even when he'd be out on the track kicking your butt he'd still be yelling words of encouragement to you," said Kline.
Haitham was a long-distance runner, a star on the track team, and often ran with his best friend, Skyler Walker. His mother, Kimberly Walker, recalled that the last time she saw him. She said he seemed to have grown, and was more like a man than the kid she once knew.
"I mean, he was always comfortable in his skin but there was just like a calm," she said. "He was even calmer and stronger than before."
Haitham was killed 10 days before his 20th birthday. During his surprise visit to family at Thanksgiving, he left his mother a Bible. She insisted he sign it, and he did.
"That Bible I know my aunt will cherish it, cherish it forever," said Williams.
PREVIOUS STORY: FBI Is Investigating Pensacola Shooting As Terrorism
She said the family knows little about his final moments. Except one thing.
"The commander called (Haitham's mother), I believe it was Saturday, saying that Mohammed did indeed try to stop the shooter. And that he was a hero," Williams said.
"It's not surprising. That wasn't surprising to anyone in the family."