Washington Navy Yard shooting: Aaron Alexis was treated for "serious mental illness"
WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - 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.
Government sources told the Associated Press that Alexis suffered from paranoia, a sleep disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and that he also heard voices. And according to the AP, approximately one month before the shooting, he complained to Rhode Island police that "people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel rooms and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep."
Recently, he had sought treatment from two Virginia hospitals.
"He talked about it.," said friend Melinda Downs. "He said he went to Virginia and they would give him some medicine."
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 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 and a disorderly conduct citation in Georgia.
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.
Alexis also had a string of misconduct problems during his nearly three years in the military, but he received an honorable discharge.
Officials say Alexis had bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and was sometimes absent from work without authorization. The offenses occurred mainly when he was serving in Fort Worth, Texas, from 2008-2001, and were enough to prompt Navy officials to grant him an early discharge through a special program for enlisted personnel.
Officials said the bad conduct was enough to make it clear Alexis would not be a good sailor, but not enough to warrant a general or less-than-honorable discharge.
A "horrific tragedy"
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 was a full-time Navy reservist, based in Texas, when he left service in 2011.
Alexis had been working for the fleet logistics support squadron No. 46, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Navy says his home of record was New York City.
The military reports Alexis enlisted on May 5, 2007 and received the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal – one for servicing during a time of national emergency, and another for serving post-9/11.
The 34-year-old was arrested in 2010 for shooting a gun into a neighbor’s apartment, and was also arrested after shooting out a contractor’s tires in Seattle back in 2004. According to the Seattle Police Department, when police arrested Alexis, he told police he shot out the tires because the victim “had mocked him earlier” after his vehicle had been tampered with.
Alexis was cited in 2008 for disorderly conduct in 2008. His citation was first obtained by CNN.
He also told police he suffered from an “anger-fueled” blackout and didn’t remember pulling the trigger, the report states.
The Seattle police called Alexis’ father, who said Alexis suffered from anger management problems because he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder possibly linked to his recovery efforts at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City.
"He and his co-workers at the time were just in shock and disbelief like all Americans, that the twin towers were no longer there; he had an anger towards the terrorists who did that and took innocent people," said friend Kristi Suthamtewakul.
But according to more than one acquaintance, the news is a shock.
"It would never have ever crossed my mind that he would be capable of something like that -- he seemed like the kind of guy that would just, you know, he liked to have weapons but he never acted like he would hurt anyone," said friend Michael Ritrovato.
"No one ever mentioned anything about him being aggressive or being this type of way or anything like that., so I can't comment to say that I knew anything about that," said Anthony Little, Alexis' brother-in-law.
Defense officials say Alexis was currently working as a defense department contractor, but it's not clear if he was assigned at the military base in southeast D.C.
Defense officials say Alexis was working as an information technology contractor, but it was not known which company employed him. As a contractor, he could have had a badge that might have gained him access to the base. Alexis was a former Navy reservist, serving from 2007 to early 2011.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University also says he was an online student pursuing a bachelor's degree in aeronautics. He started classes in July 2012.
At one point, Alexis had also worked at a Thai restaurant in a Dallas suburb, and friends say he spoke Thai and was a Buddhist.
At a Monday night press conference, it was confirmed that the description of another possible shooter has been lifted, ruling out the suspect in olive drab. MPD does continue to pursue the possibility of a second suspect, though the department is "comfortable that we have the one person responsible for loss of life today."