NORFOLK, Va. (WJZ) — A Maryland man killed at a Virginia Naval base is hailed a hero by his commanders. He kept an armed attacker off a military ship and saved a colleague’s life. The young man’s family is devastated but proud.

Christie Ileto has their emotional reaction from Hagerstown.

Fighting back tears, a Hagerstown family tries to make sense of a shooting that killed their son this week, Master at Arms Mark Mayo. The Navy says Mayo was trying to protect another officer from a civilian who had seized her gun while trying to board the USS Maahan at Naval Station Norfolk.

“Petty Officer Mark Mayo pushed the Petty Officer out of the line of fire, stepped over the watch and proceeded to fire his weapon at the civilian,” said Commander Robert Clark.

May’s actions were already deemed “nothing less than heroic” by the base commander.

His family says he died a hero.

“He chose to be a military police and he served them honorably,” his father, Decondi Mayo, said.

The civilian gunman has not been identified but we know he was a truck driver who was properly credentialed—approved—to be on the base, although it’s unclear why he was trying to get on the ship.

“He had credentials that allowed him access to the installation, to the pier,” said Clark.

Base officials say even with valid IDs, the suspect shouldn’t have been allowed access.

“We felt he was safe on a military base, that he’d be protected. I’m just trying to grasp what happened, how and why,” said Mayo’s brother, Tim Borum.

This latest shooting comes after the September Navy Yard shooting in Washington DC where an armed contractor killed 12 civilians before being shot to death.

While the Navy investigates why the suspect was allowed into the Norfolk base, the Mayos must cope with never knowing why this happened to their son.

Officials at Naval Station Norfolk say they will be looking at all of their procedures to see where they can tighten up security.

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