Washington Navy Yard shooting
|Washington Navy Yard shooting|
CCTV footage of Aaron Alexis in building 197 holding a Remington 870 shotgun.
|Location||NAVSEA Building 197, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., U.S.|
|Date||September 16, 2013
8:16 a.m. – 9:25 a.m. (EDT)
|Mass murder, shooting|
|Deaths||13 (including the perpetrator)|
|8 (3 from gunfire)|
On September 16, 2013, lone gunman Aaron Alexis fatally shot twelve people and injured three others in a mass shooting at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) inside the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C. The attack, which took place in the Navy Yard's Building 197, began around 8:20 a.m. EDT and ended when Alexis was killed by police around 9:20 a.m. EDT.
It was the second-deadliest mass murder on a U.S. military base, behind only the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009.
Prior to the shooting
Aaron Alexis was working for a subcontractor on a Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services contract supporting a Navy Marine Corps computer network. Alexis arrived in the Washington, D.C., area on or around August 25, 2013, and stayed at various hotels. At the time of the massacre, he had been staying with five other civilian contractors at a Residence Inn hotel in southwest Washington since September 7.
On Saturday, September 14, two days before the massacre, Alexis visited the Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Virginia, 15 miles (24 km) south of Washington. He tested an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle but did not seek to buy it, a lawyer for the store said. After testing the rifle, Alexis inquired about buying a handgun at the store, but was told federal law does not allow dealers to sell such guns directly to out-of-state customers. Alexis instead purchased a Remington 870 Express Tactical 12-gauge shotgun and two boxes of shells, after passing a state and federal background check.
On Monday, September 16, Alexis arrived at the Navy Yard in a rented Toyota Prius around 7:53 a.m., using a valid pass to enter the Yard. He entered Building 197 at 8:08 a.m. carrying the disassembled shotgun (the barrel and stock of which had been sawed off) in a bag on his shoulder. He assembled the shotgun inside a bathroom on the fourth floor, then emerged with the gun, crossed a hallway into the building's 4 West area, and began shooting at 8:16 a.m. Many of the people shot on the fourth floor were shot in the head at close range. After firing shots on the fourth floor for four minutes, he continued firing on the third floor and in the lobby. A NAVSEA employee described encountering a gunman wearing all-blue clothing in a third-floor hallway, saying, "He just turned and started firing." One man in an alleyway was hit by a "stray bullet". At some point, Alexis shot and killed Richard Ridgell, a security officer and former Maryland state trooper, near the building entrance and took his Beretta 9mm semiautomatic pistol, using it after running out of ammunition for his shotgun.
At 8:17 a.m., the first calls to 9-1-1 were made. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and several other law enforcement agencies responded immediately, with the first police units entering the building seven minutes after receiving the call. Alexis opened fire on police, hitting an officer, Scott Williams, in both legs. At 8:57 a.m., he went to the third floor, where he engaged law enforcement personnel in eight separate gunfights that all lasted for an approximate total of thirty minutes. In an open atrium with an area of cubicles, Alexis engaged D.C. Police Emergency Response Team officer Dorian DeSantis and Park Police officers Andrew Wong and Carl Hiott, shooting DeSantis in his tactical vest. At 9:25 a.m., Alexis was fatally shot in the head by DeSantis, and his death was confirmed at 11:50 a.m.
There were 13 fatalities, including the perpetrator. Alexis and 11 of the victims were killed at the scene, while a 12th victim who was shot in the head, 61-year-old Vishnu Pandit, died at George Washington University Hospital. All the victims killed were civilian employees or contractors. Eight others were injured, three of them from gunfire. The survivors wounded by gunshots (police officer Scott Williams and two female civilians) were in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center.
May 9, 1979|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 16, 2013
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Cause of death
|Gunshot wound to the head|
|Occupation||Civilian contractor, U.S. Navy sailor|
Born in the New York City borough of Queens, Alexis grew up in Brooklyn and was a resident of Fort Worth, Texas. He joined the United States Navy in 2007, and served in Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. His rating was aviation electrician's mate and he had attained the rank of petty officer third class when he was honorably discharged from the Navy on January 31, 2011, although the Navy originally intended for him to receive a general discharge.
According to a Navy official, Alexis was cited on at least eight occasions for misconduct. In 2010, he was arrested in Fort Worth for discharging a weapon within city limits. Alexis was also arrested in 2004 in Seattle, Washington, for malicious mischief, after shooting out the tires of another man's vehicle in what he later described as the result of an anger-fueled "blackout"; and in 2008 in DeKalb County, Georgia, for disorderly conduct. None of Alexis' arrests led to prosecution.
In March 2008, Alexis received a secret-level security clearance valid for ten years. Following the Navy Yard shooting, it was found that the federal personnel report that led to the clearance's approval did not mention that his 2004 arrest had involved a firearm. On his clearance application, Alexis said he had never been charged with a felony, and that he had not been arrested in the last seven years; the personnel report said Alexis had given these answers because the 2004 charge had been dismissed.
From September 2012 to January 2013, Alexis worked in Japan, "refreshing computer systems" on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network for an HP Enterprise Services subcontracting company called The Experts.[clarification needed] After returning from Japan, he expressed frustration to a former roommate that he felt he hadn't been paid properly for the work he performed. Another roommate of Alexis said that he would frequently complain about being the victim of discrimination. In July 2013, he resumed working for The Experts in the United States.
After the Washington Navy Yard shooting, the media speculated that Alexis had appeared to be suffering from mental illness. The media reported that Alexis had filed a police report in Rhode Island on August 2, 2013, in which he claimed to be the victim of harassment and that he was hearing voices in his head. According to an FBI official after the shooting, Alexis was under "the delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves". A message later obtained by federal authorities from Alexis' personal computing devices said, "Ultra low frequency attack is what I've been subject to for the last 3 months. And to be perfectly honest, that is what has driven me to this."
On August 23, 2013, Alexis showed up at a Providence, Rhode Island VA emergency room complaining of insomnia, and he was prescribed 50 milligrams of Trazodone, a Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor antidepressant. On August 28, he sought treatment for insomnia in the emergency room of a VA medical center in Washington, D.C., where he told doctors he was not depressed and was not thinking of harming others. He was given 10 more tablets of Trazodone.
Reports of other shooters
On the day of the shooting, Washington Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier initially said that police were searching for a white male wearing khaki military fatigues and a beret, who had allegedly been seen with a handgun, and a black male wearing olive military fatigues and carrying a long gun. The white male was later identified and deemed not to be a suspect. The black male was not identified. At 7:00 p.m., officials ruled out the possibility of other shooters besides Alexis, but were still seeking one other person for possible involvement.
On September 16, many roadways and bridges were temporarily closed, and flights out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport were temporarily suspended. Eight schools were locked down. Shortly after 3:00 p.m., United States Senate buildings went on lock-down for about an hour "out of an abundance of caution", according to the Senate Sergeant at Arms. The Washington Nationals baseball team postponed their scheduled evening game, owing to the proximity of Nationals Park to the Navy Yard area.
The Navy Yard reopened and resumed usual operations on Thursday, September 19. Building 197 remains closed indefinitely. In October 2013, the Navy awarded a $6.4 million repair-and-restoration contract for the building; the contract indicated that "the repairs shall be done in a manner that changes the feel, finish, appearance and layout of the space, creating a different sense of place and mitigating the psychological and emotional impacts that the facility itself could have on returning occupants."
Shortly after news of the shooting broke, United States President Barack Obama pledged to ensure the perpetrators would be held responsible. Obama ordered flags at the White House, all public buildings and all military and naval posts, stations and vessels to be flown at half-staff until sunset on September 20. On September 17, Department of Defense officials laid a wreath at the Navy Memorial plaza in honor of the victims. President Obama attended a September 22 memorial service for the victims, where he urged people to consider that "there is nothing routine about this tragedy."
The shooting sparked a discussion on the adequacy of security at U.S. military facilities. On September 18, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of security procedures at military facilities around the world. Foreign Policy magazine reported that virtually anyone with a Common Access Card (C.A.C.), provided to government contractors, civilian Defense Department employees, and soldiers, can enter many military facilities "without being patted down or made to go through a metal detector". Aaron Alexis had a Secret-level security clearance and a C.A.C. allowing him to enter the Navy Yard. Conservative commentators including Alex Jones, Ted Nugent, and others suggested that "gun-free zones" on military bases were to blame for the massacre. On NBC's Meet the Press, National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre said, "when the good guys with guns got there, it stopped." In the libertarian Reason magazine, J.D. Tuccille said that on domestic U.S. military bases, most soldiers are prohibited from carrying guns, and that this made the base more vulnerable to an attack.
On September 17, gun control activists and relatives of victims of shootings that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aurora, Colorado, and the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh temple, came to Washington to protest for stricter gun control. The activists said they hoped that the Navy Yard attack's proximity to Capitol Hill would motivate lawmakers to act to impose stricter background checks and close the gun show loophole.
On September 25, 2013, Hewlett Packard fired the computer firm The Experts, which employed Aaron Alexis, over "its failure to respond appropriately" to the Washington Navy Yard shooter's mental health issues.
On February 20, 2014, a ceremony was held to honor the over 170 law enforcement officers, including 57 D.C. Metropolitan Police officers, who responded and entered the building to search for Alexis. Specifically, MPD Officers Scott Williams and Dorian DeSantis were given the Medal of Valor, Medal of Honor, and the Blue Badge Medal for their roles during the gun battle.
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