News Brief — Sept 16, 2013
Initial reports that suggested as many as three different gunmen may have been involved in the shooting at the Navy Yard have been ruled out.
Police have eliminated two other suspects who were reportedly involved — a black male aged between 40 and 50 wearing a drab olive uniform and a white male wearing khaki military-style clothes and a beret and carrying a handgun — from their inquiries.
Washington DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier emphasised that police were now focused on a solitary suspect instead.
She said: “We do feel comfortable we have the single and sole person responsible for the loss of life on the base today.
Now the gunman has been identified as a solitary shooter, one Aaron Alexis, a Black civilian contractor from Fort Worth, Texas.
However this is not the first time Alexis has been involved in a shooting. In May 2004 the Seattle Police Department released details of an incident in which Alexis shot out the tyres of a car, claiming he had been traumatised by the 9/11 attacks.
According to the report, Alexis claimed men on a construction site had been mocking him and he had suffered an “anger-fuelled blackout”.
Washington shooter Aaron Alexis: Buddhist ’9/11 rescuer’ had anger issues, friends say
Theresa Vargas, Steve Hendrix and Marc Fisher — SMH Sept 17, 2013
Aaron Alexis lived for a time in a bungalow in the woods near a Buddhist temple in Fort Worth, Texas, where he occasionally joined Thai immigrants in meditation. Aaron Alexis died on Monday in a gun battle with police in a building at the Washington Navy Yard after he killed at least 12 people.
Along the way, the man named as the shooter in the mass murder at Navy Yard Building 197 was discharged from the Navy Reserve, arrested for shooting a bullet through his downstairs neighbour’s ceiling and then asked to leave his Fort Worth apartment.
One Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Alexis was discharged in January 2011 for “a pattern of misconduct” and that the 2010 gun incident in exas played a role in his departure.
Another Navy official said Alexis was given a “general discharge”, a classification often used to designate a blemished record of performance. In some cases, a general discharge can make it difficult to land a civilian job.
But Alexis, 34, had no such trouble. He moved from Fort Worth to Washington about a month ago, friends said, and was hired as an hourly tech employee for The Experts, a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor that is updating computer systems at Navy and Marine Corps installations worldwide. He was scheduled to begin work at the Washington Navy Yard this month.
Those who knew Alexis in recent years describe him as a “sweet and intelligent guy” (a regular customer at the Thai restaurant where he worked as a waiter), as “a good boy” (his landlord), but also as someone who was “very aggressive”, someone who seemed like he might one day kill himself (a lay worker at the Buddhist temple where Alexis worshipped.)
That angry streak flared often enough to create an arrest record in three states.
In 2004, Alexis was arrested in Seattle after he fired three shots from a Glock pistol into the tyres of a Honda Accord that two construction workers had parked in a driveway adjacent to Alexis’s house. Alexis’s father told Seattle detectives then that his son “had experienced anger management problems that the family believed was associated with PTSD”, or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the police report. The father said that Alexis “was an active participant in rescue attempts of September 11, 2001″.
Alexis’s own explanation for his behaviour that day: the construction workers had “mocked” and “disrespected” him and then he had had “a black-out fuelled by anger.”
He was arrested but not charged, Seattle police said. The paperwork apparently was lost.
“That report never got to the Seattle city attorney’s office,” said Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for the city attorney. “Consequently, we never filed charges.”
In 2008, Alexis was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in DeKalb County, Georgia. He spent two nights in jail, police said, but they had no other details.
More recently, Alexis struck those who crossed his path as a man of sharp contrasts. He studied the Thai language, visited Thailand for a month, was studying for an online degree in aeronautical engineering and seemed to enjoy conversing with customers, according to friends, customers and fellow worshippers. But some of those same people said that Alexis had an aggressive streak, one that caused them to keep their distance and avoid personal questions.
“He’s a 13-year-old stuck in a 34-year-old body,” said Oui Suthamtewakul, owner of the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in White Settlement, Texas, and a friend who lived with Alexis for most of the past three years. “He needs attention.”