Created on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 Written by BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.
These images released by the FBI show photos of Aaron Alexis, who police believe was the gunman at the Washington Navy Yard shooting in Washington, Monday morning, and who was killed after he fired on a police officer. Alexis 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. The photo at left is from 2011. (AP Photo/FBI)
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 had 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.
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 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 because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation. The AR-15 is the same type of rifle used in last year's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed 20 students and six women. The weapon was also used in the shooting at a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 70.
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 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, 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.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, was at the base at the time the shooting began but was moved unharmed to a nearby military installation.
Anxious relatives and friends of those who work at the complex waited to hear from loved ones.
Tech Sgt. David Reyes, who works at Andrews Air Force Base, said he was waiting to pick up his wife, Dina, who was under lockdown in a building next to where the shooting happened. She sent him a text message.
"They are under lockdown because they just don't know," Reyes said. "They have to check every building in there, and they have to check every room and just, of course, a lot of rooms and a lot of buildings."
Associated Press writers Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.
Officials: Gunman treated for mental health issues
ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press
MATT APUZZO, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. law enforcement officials are telling The Associated Press that the Navy contractor identified as the gunman in the mass shootings at the Washington Navy Yard had been suffering a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said.
Aaron Alexis, 34, had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation in the case was continuing. The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance that Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.
Family members told investigators that Alexis was being treated for his mental issues.
Navy Yard shooting victims had long careers there
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A dozen people died in a shooting rampage Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. It was the deadliest attack at a domestic military installation since November 2009, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas. Early Tuesday, the stories of some of those who died started to surface.
Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., was a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home, said his uncle, Steve Hunter.
"It would have been the first plane he ever owned," Hunter said in a telephone interview from Rochester, Mich., Arnold's hometown. "It's partially assembled in his basement."
Hunter said his nephew retired from the Navy as a commander or lieutenant commander and had previously been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He worked at the Navy Yard on a team that designed vessels such as the USS Makin Island, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship used by the Marine Corps.
Arnold and his wife, Jolanda, had been married for more than 30 years, Hunter said. They had two grown sons, Eric and Christopher.
Hunter said Arnold returned to Michigan for Labor Day to visit his 80-year-old mother, Patricia.
"He was a loving son of his mother and his wife, and great father to his kids," said Hunter. "It's tragic. How can you get up in the morning and go to work and have that happen? How do bad things like that happen to good people?"
Sylvia Frasier, 53, had worked at Naval Sea Systems Command as an information assurance manager since 2000, according to a LinkedIn profile in her name.
Frasier studied at Strayer University, earning a bachelor of science in computer information systems in 2000 and a master's in information systems in 2002. Her duties at NAVSEA included providing policy and guidance on network security, and assuring that all computer systems operated by the headquarters met Department of Navy and Department of Defense requirements.
She also led efforts "to establish and implement procedures to investigate security violations or incidents," according to the profile.
Her brother, James Frasier, declined comment Monday night.
Kathleen Gaarde, 63, of Woodbridge, Va., was a financial analyst who supported the organization responsible for the shipyards, her husband, Douglass, wrote in an email to the AP early Tuesday.
Douglass Gaarde declined to speak, but wrote that he was unable to sleep.
"Today my life partner of 42 years (38 of them married) was taken from me, my grown son and daughter, and friends," he wrote. "We were just starting to plan our retirement activities and now none of that matters. It hasn't fully sunk in yet but I know I already dearly miss her."
Madelyn Gaarde, of Grand Junction, Colo., who's married to Douglass Gaarde's brother, said her sister- and brother-in-law met while he was studying electrical engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Douglass Gaarde, an Illinois native, also worked for the Navy until his retirement last year, his sister-in-law said.
"She was a very gracious person and very welcoming," she said of Kathleen Gaarde.
Kenneth Proctor, 46, worked as a civilian utilities foreman at the Navy Yard, his ex-wife, Evelyn Proctor, said. He spent 22 years working for the federal government, Evelyn Proctor said.
The Waldorf, Md., woman spoke to Kenneth early Monday morning before he left for work at the Navy Yard. It was his regular call. The high school sweethearts talked every day, even after they divorced this year after 19 years of marriage, and they shared custody of their two teenage sons.
She was in shock about her ex-husband's death.
"He just went in there in the morning for breakfast," Proctor said Monday night of the building where the shooting took place. "He didn't even work in the building. It was a routine thing for him to go there in the morning for breakfast, and unfortunately it happened."
Proctor said she tried to call her ex-husband throughout the day and drove to the Navy Yard on Monday afternoon, fearing the worst. After waiting for about three hours alongside other relatives concerned about their loved ones, she was informed around 8 p.m. that he was among the dead. Officials did not detail the circumstances of his shooting, she said.
The Proctors married in 1994 and divorced this year. Their older son, Kenneth Proctor Jr., 17, enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school this spring and is in basic training in Oklahoma. Their younger son, Kendull Proctor, is 15.
"We were still very close. It wasn't a bitter divorce," Evelyn Proctor said. "We still talked every day, and we lived 10 minutes away from each other."
Kenneth Proctor was born and raised in Charles County, Md., where he lived until his death.
"He loved the Redskins. Loved his kids — a very loving, caring, gentle person. His kids meant a lot to him," Evelyn Proctor said.
Associated Press writers Amanda Kell, Ben Nuckols and Allen G. Breed contributed to this report.
Shooting reignites gun talk, but bills still cold
NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A deadly shooting in the heart of the nation's capital has reignited talk about guns, but it's uncertain whether the tragedy will revive a legislative debate that has gone cold in the face of opposition from Second Amendment supporters.
The case for increased gun control has become increasingly difficult, evidenced by the National Rifle Association-backed recall of two Colorado legislators who supported stricter laws and President Barack Obama's powerlessness to pass his legislation.
As Senate office buildings were closed to visitors Monday following the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, lawmakers from both sides of the debate offered sympathy for the victims. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a leading advocate for tougher gun control in the Senate, issued a call to action to stop "the litany of massacres."
"When will enough be enough?" the California Democrat said in a written statement. "Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life."
For Obama, it was at least the seventh mass shooting of his presidency, and he wearily mourned the victims while speaking at the White House.
"We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital," Obama said. "It's a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job protecting all of us. They're patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn't have expected here at home."
Asked later about whether the shooting would reignite his call for more gun control, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president was implementing executive actions and reiterated his commitment to strengthening gun laws, including expanding background checks to sales online and at gun shows. "The president supports, as do an overwhelming majority of Americans, common-sense measures to reduce gun violence," Carney said.
Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief operating officer of Washington Hospital Center, which treated several of the Navy Yard victims, said: "We need to do whatever we can — to have people argue, to have people disagree — this is something we've got to work on together. ... We've got to stop it."
Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said after every shooting, "the corporate gun lobby's friends in Congress obstructed the will of the American people and stood in the way of sensible solutions to gun violence."
"While it is too early to know what policies might have prevented this latest tragedy, we do know that policies that present a real opportunity to save lives sit stalled in Congress, policies that could prevent many of the dozens of deaths that result every day from gun violence," Gross said in a written statement.
The NRA declined to respond to requests for comment Monday. The group successfully fought Obama's push for stricter firearms laws after a December school shooting that killed 20 Connecticut first-graders and six staffers. The Senate in April rejected expanded background checks for gun purchasers, despite broad public support for such a measure.
Obama and gun control advocates have vowed to continue fighting for the cause but they can't point to a single new Senate supporter. Their case wasn't helped by last week's recall of two Colorado Democratic senators who supported expanded background checks and limits on ammunition magazines.
Matt Bennett, senior vice president at Democratic-leaning Third Way, said the Colorado senators' mistake that led to their recall was voting to ban high-capacity magazines, even though Third Way has supported such a ban.
"We do as good public policy, but we don't support Congress trying to do it at this point because it's bad politics," Bennett said. "Voters don't like it."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate for stricter gun laws with his group Mayor's Against Illegal Guns, contributed about $350,000 to support the Colorado Democrats, Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron. The NRA spent roughly the same amount opposing them.
Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said the group will continue to "give legislators who take risks to protect public safety the resources to defend themselves." He said it may take some time, but predicted eventually they will have support in the Senate for tighter laws.
"It's a question of how long some senators think they can politically sustain doing nothing while 33 more Americans die every day and the mass shootings continue," Glaze said.