Gunman had shown violent temper
By Eric Tucker, Brett Zongker And Lolita C. Baldor September 16, 2013 11:01PM
The main street near the Washington Navy Yard is crowded with official vehicles following a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. At least one gunman launched an attack inside the Washington Navy Yard, spraying gunfire on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallways at the heavily secured military installation in the heart of the nation's capital, authorities said. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Updated: October 18, 2013 6:36AM
WASHINGTON — A defense contractor went on a shooting rampage Monday inside a building at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard, spraying bullets in the hallways and firing from a balcony onto workers in an atrium below. Thirteen people were killed, including the gunman.
Police said the gunman, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas, used a valid pass to get onto the base before launching the attack, which 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.
Alexis died after a running gunbattle inside the building with police, investigators said.
“This is a horrific tragedy,” Mayor Vincent Gray said.
Investigators said the motive was a mystery. The mayor said there was no indication it was a terrorist attack, but he added that the possibility had not been ruled out.
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 attack was the work of a lone gunman, and the security 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.
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.
In addition to those killed, more than a dozen people were hurt, including a police officer and two female civilians who were shot and wounded. They were all expected to survive.
Witnesses described a gunman opening fire from a fourth-floor overlook, aiming down on people in the cafeteria on the main floor. Others said a gunman fired at them in a third-floor hallway.
Alexis seems a study in contradictions: a former Navy reservist, a Defense Department contractor, a convert to Buddhism who was taking an online course in aeronautics. But he also had flashes of temper that led to run-ins with police over shootings in Fort Worth, Texas, and Seattle.
While some neighbors and acquaintances described him as “nice,” his 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.
At the time of the shootings, he worked for The Experts, a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network. His life over the past decade has been checkered.
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.
When detectives interviewed workers at the construction site, they told police Alexis had stared at construction workers at the job site daily for several weeks prior to the shooting. The owner of the construction business told police he believed Alexis was angry over the parking situation around the site.
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 until an hour after the incident.
Alexis also told police he was present during “the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001” and described “how those events had disturbed him.”
Then, on May 5, 2007, he enlisted in the Navy reserves, serving through 2011, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Megan Shutka.
It was while he was still in the reserves that a neighbor in Fort Worth reported she had been nearly struck by a bullet shot from his downstairs apartment.
In September 2010, Fort Worth police questioned Alexis about the neighbor’s report; he admitted to firing his weapon but said he was cleaning his gun when it accidentally discharged. He said he didn’t call the police because he didn’t think the bullet went through to the other apartment. The neighbor told police she was scared of Alexis and felt he fired intentionally because he had complained about her making too much noise.
The case was not pursued after it was determined the gun discharged accidentally. AP