“Spice” use only clue so far in trucker’s Navy-base attack

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-02 17:40:45-04

Federal sources are telling NewsChannel 3 they've uncovered no connection between trucker Jeffrey Savage and the Navy destroyer he stormed aboard, or any member of the crew, more than a month after the mysterious attack that left two dead.

But interviews with Savage's friends and family revealed the truck driver was agitated, stressed and worried about his work. Sources tell NewsChannel 3 Savage had been smoking both pot and "spice" in the days leading up to the attack. "Spice" is an illegal synthetic marijuana that can trigger hallucinations and unpredictable behavior.

Savage in late March drove the cab of a Freightliner tractor trailer onto Naval Station Norfolk close to midnight. He boarded the destroyer Mahan docked at Pier 1 and was confronted by a sentry. Savage took her gun as another sentry raced to help. Master At Arms Mark Mayo protected the disarmed sentry while exchanging fire with the intruder. Both Savage and Mayo died.

On Thursday, NewsChannel 3's sources confirmed the Navy's initial story about how Savage got past the security gate was not accurate. Savage did not show a controversial federal ID card for truck drivers -- a TWIC card -- or any other ID to get onto the base. Our sources said Savage pulled up to the guard gate and made some sort of hand gesture. The guard thought the driver was signaling to make a U-turn. The guard let the truck through, according to sources, but the truck did not turn around.

Because of the Navy's statements about the TWIC card, several organizations including NewsChannel 3 and Sen. Mark Warner's staff scrutinized the requirements for the federal ID. We uncovered how truck drivers with violent criminal histories were still eligible for this ID card issued by the Transportation Security Administration. And we found out the background-checking process was flimsy. Savage had served prison time for dealing crack and for manslaughter, but was able to pass the background check. But this week, our sources said the TWIC played no role in this breach. The truck driver penetrated the secure gate with only a misunderstood hand wave.

NewsChannel 3 on Friday spoke briefly with Savage's new wife at her Chesapeake home. She and several friends were loading a U-Haul truck backed up to her front door. She said she did not want to speak about her husband or what happened that night. A report by Navy investigators on the security breach could come out by the end of this month. Toxicology tests on Savage will likely reveal what, if anything, was in his system the night of the attack.

Mayo, in his death, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism. He was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery.