St. Petersburg principal remembers high school graduate killed in Navy base attack

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Mohammed Haitham made a difference during his years at St. Petersburg’s Lakewood High School.

“He was such a salt of the Earth type of student,” principal Erin Savage said Sunday. “When I found out he joined the military, it just excited me so much because he wanted to give back and he wanted to do good things and I felt like he was headed in that direction.”

Haitham graduated in 2018, then joined the U.S. Navy.

Savage spoke to 8 On Your Side just a day after learning about Haitham’s death. She described the graduate as a stellar student and exceptional athlete.

“My assistant principal for curriculum nicknamed him ‘The Perfect One.’ So at any given point in time she’d say, ‘hey Perfect One.’ He was a perfect kid. Students and staff loved him,” Savage said.

Haitham’s young life was cut short 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.

He killed three people and wounded eight before deputies shot and killed him.

Haitham’s family, distraught over his death, got some solace after learning he had died.

“My aunt got a call from the Commander saying Mo tried to stop the shooter,” cousin Ashley Williams said. “By him trying to stop the shooter, he jeopardized his life, but he actually saved others. There could’ve been more deaths if he didn’t take that act of faith.”

It’s no surprise to his high school principal.

“When his mother told me that, I was not shocked at all. I could see him trying to save others, jumping in front of a gunman to save others,” Savage said. “Just always there for anybody, anybody else, anybody who needed him.”

Savage said she checked Haitham’s Facebook page and noticed dozens of messages from others praising him.

Savage said grief counselors will be available at Lakewood High School Monday. She said the school may hold a candlelight vigil to remember Haitham.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Savage said, when ask about returning to school Monday after learning about the graduate’s death. “Mohammed was a great student. He’s gonna be missed. It’s a tremendous loss for our community.”

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