Aaron Alexis, 34, is dead gunman in Navy Yard shooting, authorities say
Mark Koernke, in a reality induced trance, ponders the question, if Obama had a son, would he look like Aaron?
The dead gunman in Monday’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard is Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy veteran who was discharged after he was arrested in a shooting incident—but was later hired by a government subcontractor.
Police said it was unclear if Alexis acted alone, or how he accessed the tightly guarded Navy Yard. As of Monday evening, authorities also are still searching for another person: a black man in his 40s with gray sideburns, wearing an olive-drab military-style uniform.
Alexis died at the scene of Monday’s shooting, in which at least 12 other people died. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said no motive is known.
By Monday afternoon, a portrait of Alexis had begun to emerge. He lived until recently in Fort Worth, where he was seen frequently at a Buddhist temple, meditating and helping out. He was pursuing a bachelor’s of science degree in aeronautics as an online student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
But Alexis also had been accused in at least two prior shooting incidents, one in Fort Worth and one in Seattle, according to police reports.
In 2004 in Seattle, Alexis allegedly used a Glock pistol to shoot out the tires of a car belonging to a construction worker. Alexis said that he had experienced a “‘black-out’ fueled by anger” and that he did not remember pulling the trigger until an hour later. No one was injured. Police said that Alexis told them he believed the worker had “mocked him” earlier that day.
Documents posted by Seattle police said Alexis said he had “been present” at one of the scenes of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “Those events disturbed him,” the police documents said. Alexis’ father told police that his son had anger-management problems, and blamed his experience as an “active participant in rescue attempts” after the terrorist attacks.
Alexis was arrested for property damage and the discharge of a firearm, according to the Seattle Police Department. But he was never charged in court. 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, in a telephone interview Monday. “Consequently, we never filed charges against Mr. Alexis.”
In 2010 in Fort Worth, Alexis was arrested for illegally discharging a firearm, a misdemeanor offense. A Fort Worth Police report said police had been dispatched to Alexis’ apartment complex about 6:40 p.m. Sept. 4, 2010, on a report that someone had fired a shot through the floor and into the ceiling of a woman’s apartment.
Police found that Alexis had fired a shot through the ceiling of his apartment, missing his upstairs neighbor by a few feet. Alexis later said his gun had gone off while he was cleaning it, the paper said.
“After reviewing the facts presented by the police department, it was determined that the elements constituting recklessness under Texas law were not present and a case was not filed,” the D.A.’s office said in a statement Monday.
A Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Alexis was discharged from the service in January 2011 for “misconduct,” and that the 2010 firearms incident in Texas played a role in his departure.
In Fort Worth, Alexis had become a familiar, if unusual, figure at a Buddhist temple.
At the Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center there, Alexis came to meditate twice a week. But he still seemed so tightly wound that at least one worker there sought to avoid him.
“He would help people if they came in carrying heavy things,” said J. Sirun, an assistant to the monks at the center. “From the outside, he was a quiet person. But on the inside, I think he was very aggressive. He did not like to be close with anybody, like a soldier who has been at war.”
Alexis spoke Thai, the language of many other temple worshippers, and also worked as a waiter at a Thai restaurant. One acquaintance said Alexis had recently traveled to Thailand for a month.
“He understood about 75 percent of the language,” Sirun said.
“I didn’t think he could be this violent,” Sirun said. “I would not have been surprised to hear he had committed suicide. But I didn’t think he could commit murder.”
Somsak Srisan, who also frequented the temple, learned that Alexis needed a place to stay. He offered to rent him a two-bedroom white bungalow behind the temple. Srisan said Alexis lived there for a year and didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and never missed a payment on his $600 a month rent.
Srisan said Alexis had moved out of the house at least several months ago, although he wasn’t sure if he had left the Fort Worth area. Srisan said he doesn’t know why Alexis left his job at the base. They spoke about it only once, and it was a brief conversation, he said.
“I asked him, ‘Why you quit the job with the government?” Srisan said, speaking broken English. “He said somebody doesn’t like me.”
Srisan said he didn’t ask Alexis any more questions because, “I don’t want to go too deep with him.”
Military personnel records show that Alexis spent nearly four years in the Navy as a full-time reservist from May 2007 until he was discharged in January 2011, according to a summary of his personnel records released by Navy officials at the Pentagon.
Those Navy officials said they were still researching whether Alexis had been employed more recently as a defense contractor or a civilian employee of the Navy, and were uncertain if he was assigned to work at the Navy Yard.
Police are investigating whether the identification of former Navy petty officer Rollie Chance was used by Alexis to enter the Navy Yard compound. An ID belonging to Chance was found near the body of Alexis.
Federal investigators visited Chance’s home Monday. A relative of Rollie Chance said in a telephone interview that Chance, from Stafford, Va., was not at the Navy Yard and was neither a witness nor a suspect and asked the media to leave the family alone.
In the Navy, Alexis achieved his final rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class in December 2009.
Alexis was assigned to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 at Naval Air Station Fort Worth in Texas for the bulk of his time in the military, from 2008 until he left the service in 2011, records show. He was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal— two common awards for military personnel.
Meanwhile, a relative of Alexis said she hadn’t seen him in several years.
“We haven’t seen him for years,” said Helen Weekes of her nephew in a telephone interview. “I know he was in the military. He served abroad. I think he was doing some kind of computer work.” Weekes, who lives in Seattle, said that Alexis had grown up in New York, including in Brooklyn and Queens.
Weekes said she was receiving constant media calls Monday afternoon in which reporters asked her if she knew if Alexis had been involved in a shooting in Washington, D.C. She said she had not been contacted by police.
“I’d be shocked if it was him, but I don’t know,” she said, her voice trailing off.
Monday, as word spread about the shooting, many members of the Wat Busayadhammavanaram community gathered at the temple to discuss what happened.
“They don’t believed it that he could kills 12 people like that,” Srisan said.
FBI Assistant Director Valerie Parlave asked the public to call 1-800-CALL-FBI with any information about Alexis: “No piece of information is too small. We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements.”