NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Dozens of transportation workers have been denied access to Navy bases on the East Coast because of their criminal histories since more stringent rules were put in place following a fatal shooting aboard a destroyer in Virginia, according to figures provided by the Navy.
A civilian truck driver with a criminal record shot and killed Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo aboard the USS Mahan in March after driving onto Naval Station Norfolk, walking onto a pier and onto the ship's quarterdeck. The Navy said Jeffrey Tyrone Savage disarmed a sailor guarding the ship and used her weapon to fire the fatal shots at Mayo, who jumped between the disarmed sailor and Savage. Savage was later shot and killed by Navy personnel in a shootout aboard the ship.
The Navy said Savage possessed a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential that could have gotten him access to the base, although he lacked proper paperwork indicating he had a legitimate reason to be there. The civilian gate guard who allowed Savage to drive onto base has been placed on administrative leave.
The credential Savage had the night of the shooting is issued by the Transportation Security Administration to people such as truck drivers who need unescorted access to ports and military installations.
Those who commit certain crimes are prohibited from having a TWIC card, but the crimes Savage committed didn't fall under any of them.
Savage's criminal record included pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Charlotte, N.C., in 2008 for shooting a friend in a car and leaving his body on the side of an interstate. Prosecutors originally charged Savage with murder and intended to seek the death penalty if he didn't plead guilty to the lesser charge. Savage's criminal history also includes possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.
After the shooting aboard the Mahan, the commander in charge of Navy installations for most of the East Coast issued new rules prohibiting anyone with a felony in the past 10 years from using a TWIC card to get onto base. Under the new rules, Savage would not have been allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk.
Figures provided to The Associated Press show that in the first three weeks the new rules were in place, 48 people were denied access to Navy installations in Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. During the same time period, 1,018 people used a TWIC card to try to gain access to the 12 installations in those states that the Navy is tracking statistics on TWIC card entry denials.
Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach had the most denials, with 21 out of 198 TWIC card uses. Among other things, the base is home to amphibious ships that transport Marines and Navy SEAL teams.
Under the new policy, the National Crime Information Center database is now checked for any criminal history or outstanding warrants that are grounds for denial. In addition to the ban on felonies in the past ten years, no access for TWIC card holders is allowed for anyone who has a misdemeanor conviction within the last five years for crimes of violence; larceny; drugs; habitual offenders; and conviction for sex offenses.
Beth Baker, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said the background checks can add anywhere from five minutes to two hours to wait times for those using TWIC cards to gain entry.
The other installations that had TWIC card denials are: Naval Air Station Oceana 2; Naval Station Norfolk 11; Naval Station Newport 1; Naval Shipyard Norfolk 6; Naval Weapons Station Earle 1; Naval Submarine Base New London 2; Naval Weapons Station Yorktown 4.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis .