Contract worker behind Navy Yard shooting rampage
WASHINGTON (AP) – The deadly attack at the Washington Navy Yard was
carried out by one of the military's own: a defense contract employee
and former Navy reservist who used a valid pass to get onto the
installation and started firing inside a building, killing 12 people
before he was slain in a gun battle with police.
The motive for the mass shooting – the deadliest on
a military installation in the U.S. since the tragedy at Fort Hood,
Texas, in 2009 – was a mystery, investigators said. But a profile of the
lone gunman, a 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, was coming into focus. He was
described as a Buddhist who had also had flares of rage, complained
about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination and had several
run-ins with law enforcement, including two shootings.
U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated
Press that Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental issues,
including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices
in his head, the officials said. Alexis had been treated since August
by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials
said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal
investigation in the case was continuing.
The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which
would have rescinded a security clearance Alexis had from his earlier
time in the Navy Reserves.
Family members told investigators Alexis was being treated for his mental issues.
The officials also said there has been no
connection to international or domestic terrorism and investigators have
found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or
religious motivation for the shooting.
Monday's onslaught at a single building at the
highly secure Navy Yard unfolded about 8:20 a.m. in the heart of the
nation's capital, less than four miles from the White House and two
miles from the Capitol.
It put all of Washington on edge. Mayor Vincent
Gray said there was no indication it was a terrorist attack, but he
added that the possibility had not been ruled out.
“This is a horrific tragedy,” Gray said.
Alexis carried three weapons: an AR-15 assault
rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun that he took from a police officer at
the scene, according to two federal law enforcement officials who spoke
on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss
the investigation. The AR-15 is the same type of rifle used in last
year's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed
20 students and six women. The weapon was also used in the shooting at a
Colorado movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 70.
For much of the day, authorities said they were
looking for a possible second attacker who may have been disguised in an
olive-drab military-style uniform. But by late Monday night, they said
they were convinced the shooting was the work of a lone gunman, and the
lockdown around the area was eased.
“We do now feel comfortable that we have the single
and sole person responsible for the loss of life inside the base
today,” Washington police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
President Barack Obama lamented yet another mass
shooting in the U.S. that he said took the lives of American “patriots.”
He promised to make sure “whoever carried out this cowardly act is held
The FBI took charge of the investigation.
The attack came four years after Army psychiatrist
Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood in what he said was an
effort to save the lives of Muslims overseas. He was convicted last
month and sentenced to death.
In addition to those killed at the Navy Yard, eight
people were hurt, including three who were shot and wounded, according
to the mayor. Those three were a police officer and two female
civilians, authorities said. They were all expected to survive.
The dead ranged in age from 46 to 73, according to
the mayor. A number of the victims were civilian employees and
contractors, rather than active-duty military personnel, the police
At the time of the rampage, Alexis was an employee
with The Experts, a company that was a Defense Department subcontractor
on a Navy-Marine Corps computer project, authorities said.
Valerie Parlave, head of the FBI's field office in
Washington, said Alexis had access to the Navy Yard as a defense
contractor and used a valid pass.
Alexis had been a full-time Navy reservist from
2007 to early 2011, leaving as a petty officer third class, the Navy
said. It did not say why he left. He had been an aviation electrician's
mate with a unit in Fort Worth.
A convert to Buddhism who grew up in New York City,
Alexis had had run-ins with the law over shooting incidents in 2004 and
2010 in Fort Worth and Seattle and was portrayed in police reports as
seething with anger.
The Washington Navy Yard is a sprawling, 41-acre
labyrinth of buildings and streets protected by armed guards and metal
detectors, and employees have to show their IDs at doors and gates. More
than 18,000 people work there.
The rampage took place at Building 197, the
headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, which buys, builds and
maintains ships and submarines. About 3,000 people work at headquarters,
many of them civilians.
Witnesses on Monday described a gunman opening fire
from a fourth-floor overlook, aiming down on people on the main floor,
which includes a glass-walled cafeteria. Others said a gunman fired at
them in a third-floor hallway.
Patricia Ward, a logistics-management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria getting breakfast.
“It was three gunshots straight in a row – pop,
pop, pop. Three seconds later, it was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, so it was
like about a total of seven gunshots, and we just started running,”
Todd Brundidge, an executive assistant with Navy
Sea Systems Command, said he and co-workers encountered a gunman in a
long hallway on the third floor. The gunman was wearing all blue, he
“He just turned and started firing,” Brundidge said.
Terrie Durham, an executive assistant with the same agency, said the gunman fired toward her and Brundidge.
“He aimed high and missed,” she said. “He said
nothing. As soon as I realized he was shooting, we just said, 'Get out
of the building.'”
Officials announced early Tuesday that streets
around the Navy Yard that were closed after the shooting were re-opened
for the morning commute.
As emergency vehicles and law enforcement officers
flooded the streets Monday, a helicopter hovered, nearby schools were
locked down and airplanes at Reagan National Airport were grounded so
they would not interfere with law-enforcement choppers.
In the confusion, police said around midday that
they were searching for two accomplices who may have taken part in the
attack – one carrying a handgun and wearing a tan Navy-style uniform and
a beret, the other armed with a long gun and wearing an olive-green
uniform. Police said it was unclear if the men were members of the
But as the day wore, police dropped one person and
then the other as suspects. As tensions eased, Navy Yard employees were
gradually released from the complex, and children were let out of their
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations,
was at the base at the time the shooting began but was moved unharmed to
a nearby military installation.
Anxious relatives and friends of those who work at the complex waited to hear from loved ones.
Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman,
Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in
Washington contributed to this report.
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