Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark Mayo, seen here in an undated photo, was killed during the shooting at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on March 24. (Navy via AP)
NORFOLK, VA. — Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark Mayo was fatally shot four times March 24 defending a petty officer of the watch who was not carrying a full complement of weapons and gear, three sources told Navy Times in the most detailed account of the fatal shooting to date.
The POOW, identified only as a female cryptologic technician second class, was a qualified watchstander armed with a 9mm service pistol, but lacked the baton and oleoresin capsicum pepper spray often carried by watchstanders and security forces. The baton or the OC spray, as it’s known, may have incapacitated the assailant without having to immediately resort to the 9mm’s lethal force.
Jeffrey Savage, a 35-year old ex-convict with no authorization to be on base, attempted to board the destroyer Mahan around 11 p.m. that night for reasons that remain unclear. The petty officer of the watch confronted Savage, who was described as behaving erratically, with a verbal warning and drew her 9mm sidearm. Savage grabbed her pistol in an ensuing struggle.
Mayo, the chief of the guard, raced to the scene as the assault unfolded. The now-armed Savage was poised to shoot the female sailor when Mayo rushed in and, placed himself between them, said a security officer familiar with the tragedy, who like two others asked for anonymity while the investigation continues.
Mayo was shot once in the front, then spun to cover the sailor and was shot three times in the back, the officer said.
Another security force member, armed with a 9mm pistol, and the Mahan’s topside rover, armed with an M4 rifle, arrived as these events unfolded and opened fire. Savage was shot three times and died.
Officials have not identified the POOW or the other sailors involved in the shooting, but said counselors have been made available to them, the ship’s crew and Mayo’s fellow masters-at-arms.
Though security personnel are trained to use an escalation of verbal and physical force, Defense Department rules do not require employing such techniques before a weapon is drawn. Deadly force can be used if all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed.
Still, some sailors are asking whether the use of OC spray or a baton would have led to a different outcome.
Navy security personnel carry the 9mm in Condition 3: safety on, slide forward, magazine inserted, chamber empty. The 9mm would do little good if the sailor did not have time to rack a round before the assailant attacked. It is not clear whether Savage attacked the POOW before she drew her pistol. But some security forces personnel said OC spray would have kept him at bay, or at least slowed his assault.
The petty officer of the watch reacted as trained, said the security forces officer and two petty officers with firsthand knowledge of the deadly confrontation. They emphasized that the POOW’s gender was not a factor, saying the investigation will show that a male POOW likely would have acted similarly.
“Any contention that her being a female contributed to the events is flat-out wrong,” the officer said. “One tragedy has occurred. Sailors don’t need to add to the tragedy by false speculations.”
Savage, a civilian truck driver, was not authorized to be on the base and had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter in North Carolina in 2008 and spent time in prison a decade earlier for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute.
Many are calling for the posthumously awarding Mayo the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat heroism award.
“We owe our lives to his actions,” said Cmdr. Zoah Scheneman, skipper of the Mahan. Mayo will “live forever in Mahan, and in the hearts of the sailors who walk her decks.”
Shipmates remembered Mayo at an April 7 ceremony on Naval Station Norfolk, where he’d served since May 2011.