Navy officials say early findings rule out homicide in the case of a USS Gary sailor found dead aboard the ship Monday at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, 7th Fleet officials confirmed Tuesday.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Benjamin Jeetaek “Benny” Cardone, 22, of Garden City, N.Y., died Monday from a shotgun wound to the head, according to a Navy news release. He was discovered in an equipment room near the ship’s pilothouse, said 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Scott Gureck.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the death.

A Navy official familiar with the circumstances said the gunshot wound might have been self-inflicted.

“There are strong indications this was suicide … based on the way the wound looked and the timing of his death,” said the official, who requested anonymity because such information is confidential.

The sailor’s death occurred during a shift change of watch personnel, the official added.

As an operations specialist, Cardone worked in the guided-missile frigate’s combat information center, according to Navy officials. Cardone also served as a watch supervisor in his division, explained Lt. j.g. Ryan Easterday, a Gary spokesman.

Sailors on ship standing watch “often carry weapons in support of force protection measures,” said another Navy official in Washington, who also asked to remain unnamed.

The type of weapons and number of armed personnel is dictated by “the operating area and the threat posture our forces operate in,” the official said.

Weapons authorized during specified watch conditions include shotguns, 9mm handguns, M-60 machine guns, M-16 semi-automatic rifles and concussion grenades, the official added.

The Gary operates out of Yokosuka with a crew of about 200.

Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this report.

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