Washington Navy Yard shooting: Aaron Alexis identified as shooter
Updated: September 18, 2013 - 11:20 pm
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Twelve people, along with the suspected shooter, were killed Monday morning when a Fort Worth, Tex. man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard.
The shooting began at about 8:15 a.m. inside Building 197 at the venerable Navy Yard, a building that houses the Naval Sea Systems Command. It touched off a chaotic morning and a frantic search for a gunman, who was believed to be heavily armed.
That shooter, later identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, took the lives of 12 civilian and contract workers before being killed by authorities.
"We saw a man down the hall with a rifle, and he aimed at us," witness Terrie Durham. "He shot and missed and we were all yelling for people to get out of the building."
An executive assistant who works on the third floor, Durham says Alexis was firing at her and four others – from only 25-20 yards away.
"He stood and looked at us for a few seconds before he raised the gun," she said. "My first instinct was just to tell everyone to get moving, get out of here, there's a gunman coming."
Durham, who is only here "by the Grace of God" and grateful that Alexis missed, still remains somewhat crestfallen, as a number of the fallen were dear friends.
"There were several that I knew," she said. "It's absolutely heartbreaking, I can't even imagine what their families are going through."
Durham also says that she is too focused on her recovery and the well-being of her colleagues to second-guess the law enforcement response on that dark day.
"At a minimum, you should have 11 people at the Navy Yard standing post -- we only had six, said Head of the Navy Yard Fraternal Order of Police, Anthony Meely, who personally believes that security was not sufficient on Monday.
"If we had an adequate amount of officers, we believe we could have entered that building and we could have engaged that individual more efficiently than what happened," he said.
It was just before 8:20 a.m. when both Naval and MPD officials confirmed that they were searching for an active shooter at the Navy Yard. As the number of victims and fatalities grew throughout the morning, the scope of what had happened became abundantly clear.
"We have had a horrific tragedy," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said repeatedly throughout Monday.
The 12 victims of Alexis' rampage range in age from from 46 to 73, officials said Monday night. In addition, eight other people were injured, three of whom were shot. Officials still have yet to determine a motive for the shooting.
One of those injured was MPD Ofc. Scott Williams, who was shot while responding to the scene. Officials at MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Tuesday that he is in fair condition after suffering a gunshot wound to the leg.
Two others at Washington Hospital Center are in fair and good condition with gunshot wounds, officials say. Officials say that other people suffered head injuries, anxiety symptoms and chest pain, among other non-gunshot wounds.
As the morning progressed, authorities worked to determine whether or not the shooter had acted alone. That prompted D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to issue a lookout for two men that were suspected of being connected to the shooting.
By 10 p.m., though, Lanier said that she, local and federal authorities were convinced that Alexis had acted alone.
As the shooting erupted, people were told to simply run absent of knowing exactly what was going on. One of those people was Navy Cmdr. Tim Jirus who was helping guide the evacuation when a man he was talking to was gunned down just inches from him.
"I heard two shots and looked in the direction the gunshots were coming from," Jirus said. "I looked down, and the man standing next to me was down in front of me on the ground."
At about that time, just seven minutes after the first call for help, police were already rushing in. There was gunfire still going as police ran toward the gunfire and soon found Alexis.
"It could have been far worse," Lanier said. "There's no question he would have kept shooting."
FBI identifies Aaron Alexis as the shooter
Alexis had been working as a contractor with The Experts, a computer company, since August. He was Navy veteran who had received a general discharge in 2011 after a "pattern of misconduct," according to the Washington Post.
He was a 34-year-old from Texas who's believed to have a criminal record there and to be a holder of a concealed carry weapon permit. He 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. The Navy says his home of record was New York City.
The military reports he enlisted on May 5, 2007. He received the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Officials originally were under the impression that Alexis had somehow gotten onto the Navy Yard grounds under a guise, but authorities announced late Monday night that the shooter had used his own ID badge to gain legitimate access to the base.
Witnesses recount shooting
Rick Mason, a program management analyst who is a civilian with the U.S. Navy, said a gunman was shooting from a fourth floor overlook in the hallway outside his office.
He said the gunman was aiming down at people in the building's cafeteria on the first floor. Mason said he could hear the shots but could not see a gunman.
Shortly after the gunfire, Mason said overhead speakers told workers to seek shelter and later to head for the gates at the complex.
Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria and heard shots. They sounded like "pop, pop, pop," she said. After a few seconds, there were more shots, she said.
"Everybody just panicked at first," she said. "It was just people running, running, running."
Ward said security officers started directing people out of the building with guns drawn.
Meanwhile, Jirus was standing next to a colleague having a conversation when his colleague was shot.
"I saw him drop in front of me (and) I left at that point," Jirus said. "I ran behind the building and jumped behind a fence."
Commander Jirus said he didn't see the shooter and only heard shots.
"I feel very lucky to be standing here as opposed to somewhere else," he said.
Todd Brundidge, an executive assistant with Navy Sea Systems Command, said he and other 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 she also saw the gunman firing 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.'"
President Obama calls victims "courageous Americans"
President Barack Obama is mourning what he called "yet another mass shooting" in the United States that he says took the life of American patriots.
Obama promised to make sure, quote, "Whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible."
He said several people were shot Monday morning at the Washington Navy Yard about 3 1/2 miles from the White House, and some were killed.
On Monday evening, the Navy Vice Admiral confirmed that all 12 victims at the shooting were civilians, and 14 people were wounded.
Obama said these victims were "courageous Americans" who knew about the risks of serving overseas, but wouldn't have expected such "unimaginable violence" at home.
Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy's five system commands and accounts for a quarter of the Navy's entire budget.
It builds, buys and maintains the Navy's ships and submarines and their combat systems.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.