NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) confirmed the civilian gunman who opened fire on board USS Mahan Monday, killing a Sailor, as 35-year-old Jeffrey T. Savage of Portsmouth. 10 On Your Side did some digging and learned this isn’t the first time he’s been the center of a criminal investigation.
Court documents obtained by WAVY News 10 show Savage has a criminal history, including arrests for marijuana possession in Chesapeake and various traffic infractions. But the most chilling offense in his past is a manslaughter conviction in North Carolina in 2008. The conviction stems from the death of Maurice Griffin, whose body was found in a field next to Interstate 85 in Charlotte with a gunshot wound to the head.
“It hurt a lot knowing he was gone forever, knowing we would never get to see him again,” Griffin’s cousin, Terion, told WAVY.com.
Griffin and Savage were best friends and family members say they grew up together.
“He was like family,” Griffin’s cousin Tedra added. “He was at family functions. They were always together.”
The two were on their way to Atlanta at the time of Griffin’s death. The day after, Chopper 10 was above a Portsmouth hotel when SWAT arrested Savage and he was taken back to Charlotte to be tried. Savage claimed the shooting was self defense and pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
“Every part of me felt that when we left that courtroom and when he was sentenced to such a light sentence that he would come out and do it again,” Tedra Griffin said. “He got a slap on the wrist for killing somebody.”
Savage spent about a year and a half in the North Carolina Department Of Corrections before his release in 2009. He was sentenced to almost four years, and released due to time served in the Mecklenburg County Jail before his conviction.
Almost 10 years later, news of his latest crime didn’t come as a surprise for the Griffins.
“I wasn’t surprised. If you can kill once, you’ll kill again with ease,” Terion said.
Officials say that’s what happened Monday night when Savage attempted to board USS Mahan. A struggle ensued as he was confronted, and he was able to gain control of the weapon held by a petty officer of the watch. That weapon was used to kill MA2 Mark Mayo.
Thursday, 10 On Your Side went to Manorview Apartments off Chumley Road in Portsmouth, where records show an address for Jeffrey Savage. Residents there did not recognize his name or picture, but a manager said NCIS officials arrived late Thursday afternoon, inquiring about him. She said the last time someone with the name Jeffrey Savage lived in the complex was 2006.
Additionally, 10 On Your Side learned Savage had a limited liability company in his name last year, according to the Chesapeake Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office. The company also had a business license in the city for a lawn care service called LIONS PA LLC. That business license was not renewed for 2014.
10 On Your Side also visited a home believed to be Jeffrey Savage’s mother’s house in the Western Branch section of Chesapeake. Neighbors said they saw Savage go in and out of a home several times on the 3500 block of Radford Circle. A neighbor also said a woman lived in the Radford Circle home and operated a daycare out of the house.
The day after the deadly shooting neighbors told 10 On Your Side they saw several law enforcement officers surround the home on Radford Circle.
“When it happens so close to you, it is just kind of weird. I don’t know any other words for that,” said neighbor Eric Loulies. “I knew something was something going on because there was a gentleman staked outside on the street for a while. I saw him in front of the house and along with him there were six to eight other vehicles.”
WAVY.com also learned Savage was an employee of Majette Trucking.
Capt. Clark confirmed Savage had a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) ID when he gained access to the base. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you can obtain a TWIC card even with a criminal history.
NCIS investigators have determined Savage had no official reason to be at the base.
The victim, MA2 Mayo, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in October 2007 and began working in Norfolk in May 2011.
“Petty Officer Mayo’s actions on Monday evening were nothing less than heroic. He selflessly gave his own life to ensure the safety of the Sailors on board USS Mahan (DDG 72),” said Capt. Robert E. Clark, Jr., commanding officer, Naval Station Norfolk.
Paul Stone with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s Office said autopsies have been performed on MA2 Mayo and Savage. He told WAVY.com the results will likely take four to six weeks and will immediately be handed over to NCIS, which is the lead investigating agency.
Mario Palomino, Special Agent in Charge NCIS, said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference the agency has ruled out terrorism as a motive. He said preliminary evidence does not indicate this was a pre-planned attack.