By Richard Simon, David S. Cloud and Brian Bennett
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — The 34-year-old former Navy Reserve electrician’s mate identified as the gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been discharged from the service in 2011 after multiple disciplinary infractions, a Navy officer said Monday.
Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas, “had a pattern of misconduct,” the official said.
Law enforcement officials have identified Alexis as the lone shooter who went on a two-hour rampage at the sprawling naval base in Washington before he was shot to death by security. Officials have not yet said what they believe was his motive.
Alexis, a native of New York, served in the Navy Reserve from 2007 to 2011, when he received a general discharge, which usually signals there had been problems. Alexis was arrested but not charged in a gun incident in Seattle in 2004 but still had a security clearance with a military contractor that allowed him access to the Navy Yard, officials said.
Alexis entered Navy Yard early Monday morning with his legal pass, authorities said.
Once inside, officials said, he headed for the massive Building 197, the headquarters of the Navy Sea Systems Command. Armed with three weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, he went to the building’s fourth floor, according to officials. About 8:15 a.m., according to witness accounts and police dispatch recordings, the gunman began shooting down into a crowded atrium that houses an employee cafeteria.
Washington police and Navy security officials engaged in “multiple” exchanges of fire with Alexis over the next two hours, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters, eventually shooting and killing him.
In addition to the 12 people killed, three others were treated at a hospital, with two requiring surgery. All three are expected to recover, hospital officials said. Officials said other people may have suffered injuries that did not require hospitalization. The ages of those killed ranged in age from 46 to 73 and were civilians.
From 2008 until his discharge in 2011, Alexis was a member of an aviation support squadron based in Fort Worth, Texas, where he worked on C-40s, a military version of the Boeing 737 that the Navy uses as a cargo plane. Law enforcement officials said that he was more recently working as a military contractor.
On Sept. 5, 2010, he was arrested in Fort Worth on suspicion of discharging a weapon. Alexis reportedly told officials that the gun had discharged accidentally when he was cleaning it. The Tarrant County district attorney did not prosecute.
Alexis had lived at one time in Seattle and had been arrested by Seattle police in 2004 for malicious mischief shooting out the tires of another man’s vehicle in what Alexis later described to detectives as an anger-fueled “blackout,” the Seattle Police Department said. The charge was later dismissed.
At about 8 a.m. on May 6, 2004, two construction workers had parked their 1986 Honda Accord in the driveway of their worksite, next to a home where Alexis was staying in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, Seattle police said..
The victims 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 two rear tires of their Honda before he walked slowly back to his home north of the construction site.
Following his Seattle arrest, Alexis told detectives he perceived he had been “mocked” by construction workers near and said they had “disrespected him.” Alexis also claimed he had an anger-fueled “blackout,” and could not remember firing his gun at the victims’ vehicle until an hour after the incident.
Alexis also told Seattle police he was present during “the tragic events of September 11, 2001″ and described “how those events had disturbed him,” the SPD said.
Gray also repeated earlier statements that police had no evidence linking the attack to terrorism.
About 3:30 p.m., officials began to allow people to leave the base, which had been on lockdown.
President Obama, speaking at the White House, praised the victims as “patriots” who “know the dangers of serving abroad” but faced “unimaginable violence they wouldn’t have expected at home.” He promised that federal and local law enforcement officials would work together to investigate. He ordered flags lowered to half-staff.
Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief operating officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, reported three shooting victims at the hospital but added that they expected to admit more victims.
“From the reports of the victims, it had to be a semiautomatic,” she said. “They’re talking about gunshots that they heard in rapid succession.”
One woman admitted to the hospital had a gunshot wound to the head and her hand, Orlowski said. Another woman had a wound to her shoulder, Orlowski said, and a D.C. police officer had multiple gunshot wounds to his legs.
The three were in critical condition, she said, but she described their chances for survival as good.
The incident began at about 8:15 a.m. at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command at the sprawling naval base on Washington’s Anacostia River waterfront.
Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist, was in Building 197 when the shooting started. She told reporters she was in the lobby using the ATM when she heard three shots and started “panicking.” Then she heard four more shots. A security guard with a gun drawn told people to run, she said, and “I just ran. I thought of my family and I just ran.” Someone pulled the fire alarm.
Roughly two hours later, witnesses reported hearing more shots.
A federal law enforcement official monitoring the situation said that initial conflicting reports of more than one gunman came from a situation where a “second building” was being checked for reports of shots fired.
Officials ramped up security in all federal buildings in the Washington area. As a precaution, U.S. Capitol Police added personnel and increased security measures in the Capitol Building.
As helicopters hovered above the base, first lowering stretchers to airlift victims to hospitals and later circling the base in an apparent search effort, air traffic was briefly grounded at the nearby Reagan National Airport. Several area schools were put on lockdown.
About 3,000 people, both civilian and military, work at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters.
Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez said he was in an adjoining Navy Yard building when the shooting started.
“Everybody rushed in” to the building where he was, and security guards locked down the facility. “It was pretty orderly,” he said.