TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Lakewood High Track Coach Anthony Snead admits he is still in a daze after learning 19-year old Mohammed Haitham was killed.
“It still can’t believe it. I feel like I’m in a dream,” said Snead, who’s been a coach at the school for 15 years. “I feel like I’m in a long nightmare and I hope to wake up. “
Haitham graduated from the school in 2018, then joined the U.S. Navy. Haitham’s young life was cut short on Friday.
Authorities explained that a Saudi Arabian military officer working on base in Pensacola opened fire. The shooter was a student naval flight officer, according to the FBI.
The former track star was one of three people killed and wounded eight before deputies shot and killed him.
Haitham ran track at Lakewood High. Coach Snead recalls one time when he got hurt during a crucial run, but just kept running.
“Pulled his hamstring, but just kept running. He hobbled down the track and finished the race,” said Snead. “The team advanced but he couldn’t run in the state championship.”
In front of the school, the flags fly at half staff. Grief counselors were on hand for any students or staff members that needed someone to talk to.
Susan Alvaro, an assistant principal at the school, says in many cases, comforting words aren’t enough.
“You just hug. You just hug. What else are we supposed to do? We all loved him. We all miss him,” said Alvaro. “So we’re just going to hug. “
Alvaro describes Haitham’s personality as infectious. His smile would light up a room. She says there isn’t a student on campus that he didn’t affect.
“Whether it was the captain of the football team to struggling students who wanted to drop out. Never, students, you would associate,” said Alvaro. “But he would just see somebody, stop, and find out what was wrong.”
Lakewood High students Ja’Shannna Lyons and Damyka Dalrymple remember “Mo” as a compassionate young man.
“He was caring. He used to help people out a lot in basketball especially and in track,” Lyons said. “He used to tell people that, like he would teach them the techniques better for them to succeed better at it.”
“He was like a big brother to most of the athletes and he helped us around getting better and stuff,” Dalrymple said. “He’s like a motivator and like a mentor for everybody on the track team and football, everything like that.”
A candlelight memorial is scheduled for Dec.16.