A US defense official tells CNN that the death over the weekend of the top admiral overseeing US naval forces in the Middle East was an apparent suicide.
CNN reported on Saturday that Vice Adm. Scott Stearney was found dead in his residence in Bahrain.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told CNN on Saturday that Stearney was not currently under investigation when asked.
“No. No investigation. Nothing weird. … It’s a reasonable question, but I’m not aware of anything,” Richardson said.
CBS News was first to report that Stearney’s death was an apparent suicide.
“This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet and for the entire Navy,” Richardson told CNN on Saturday. “Adm. Stearney was a decorated professional and a devoted father, a devoted husband and a good friend.”
“I’d just ask that everybody keep the Stearney family in their thoughts and prayers as they move through this and also maybe to respect their privacy as they navigate these very, very difficult waters,” he added.
The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Naval Forces Central Command, which the Fifth Fleet is part of, oversees operations in areas like the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The command is seen as critical to US security interests given the challenges of Iran and Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, both of which the US sees as potential threats to shipping in the region.
A tremendous amount of commercial shipping, including large amounts of oil and gas, travels through the waters overseen by Fifth Fleet.
Stearney, a native of Chicago, graduated from Notre Dame in 1982 before being commissioned as an officer in the Navy and later served as an F/A-18 strike fighter pilot.
Prior to taking command of Fifth Fleet in May, he held several senior posts, including commanding a carrier strike group and serving as director of operations for US Central Command.