September 17, 2013 in Nation/World

Former reservist kills 12 in rampage

Gunman also dies; motive still unknown
Eric Tucker Brett Zongker And Lolita C. Baldor
 
Associated Press photo

Family and friends wait to greet staff of the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters as they are bused from the Washington Navy Yard to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Gunman had Seattle ties

While some neighbors and acquaintances described the gunman in Monday’s shooting as “nice,” Aaron Alexis’ father once told detectives in Seattle that his son had anger management problems related to post-traumatic stress brought on by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination.

Alexis lived in Seattle in 2004 and 2005, according to public documents. In 2004, Seattle police said, Alexis was arrested for shooting out the tires of another man’s vehicle in what he later described to detectives as an anger-fueled “blackout.” According to an account on the department’s website, two construction workers had parked their Honda Accord in the driveway of their worksite, next to a home where Alexis was staying. The workers reported seeing a man, later identified by police as Alexis, walk out of the home next to their worksite, pull a gun from his waistband and fire three shots into the rear tires of their Honda before he walked slowly back to his home.

Police eventually arrested Alexis, searched his home, found a gun and ammunition in his room, and booked him into the King County Jail for malicious mischief.

According to the police account, Alexis told detectives he perceived he had been “mocked” by construction workers the morning of the incident. Alexis also claimed he had an anger-fueled “blackout,” and could not remember firing his gun at the Honda until an hour after the incident.

WASHINGTON – A defense-industry employee used his pass to get into the Washington Navy Yard and went on a deadly shooting rampage Monday, spraying bullets in the hallway and firing from a balcony on workers in an atrium below. Thirteen people were killed, including the gunman.

The motive for the assault – the deadliest shooting on a military installation in the U.S. since the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 – was a mystery, investigators said.

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,” he said.

The 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 4 miles from the White House and 2 miles from the Capitol.

The gunman, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee and former Navy reservist whose last known address was in Fort Worth, Texas, died after a running gunbattle inside the building with police, investigators said.

He 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.

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 responsible.”

The FBI took charge of the investigation.

The attack put all of Washington on edge and raised the specter of another well-coordinated terrorist strike – or another attack from within, like Fort Hood.

It 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 chief said.

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,” Ward said.

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 said.

“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.’ ”

As emergency vehicles and law enforcement officers flooded the streets, 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.

Security was tightened at other federal buildings. Senate officials shut down their side of the Capitol. The House remained open.

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 military.

But as the day wore on, 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 locked-down schools.


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