Aaron Alexis, believed to be the lone gunman in the killing of 12 people at a Navy building in Washington Monday morning, was a Navy veteran from New York with a troubled past who was arrested in two previous shooting incidents.
Alexis, 34, who was discharged from the Navy two years ago after serving hitches in Texas and Illinois, sprayed bullets from the fourth floor down to the cafeteria area in the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in southeast Washington in an attack that began just after 8 a.m. Alexis died later as he traded shots with responding police, though it was not clear if he killed himself or was brought down by cops.
At a late night news conference, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she was confident that Alexis was the “single and sole person responsible” despite earlier reports of a possible second shooter.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said that there was still no motive for the shootings and no indication of terrorism “although we haven’t ruled that out.”
Hewlett Packard issued a statement Monday night saying that at the time of the shootings, Alexis worked for The Experts, a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network. The FBI said he had legitimate access to the Navy Yard “as a result of his work as a contractor.”
Gray said those killed ranged in age from 46 to 73. In addition, he said eight people were injured — three by gunshots and the other five by non-shooting causes like stress and falls.
Late Monday night, D.C. police identified seven of the 12 victims: Michael Arnold, 59; Sylvia Frasier, 53; Kathy Gaarde, 62; John Roger Johnson, 73; Frank Kohler, 50; Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46; and Vishnu Pandit, 61.
Two federal officials told the Associated Press that Alexis had an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun that he took from a police officer at the scene. The two officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss a pending investigation.
Many who managed to escape in the early minutes of the episode recalled panic and fear after a routine Monday morning was shattered by gunfire.
“They sounded like ‘pop, pop, pop,'” said Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist who was in the cafeteria. “Everybody just panicked at first … It was just people running, running, running.
“I just kept running,” Ward said. “Our mission is to take care of the Navy … After today, it’s not secure enough for me.”
Other witnesses told similar stories of gunshots and chaos.
“A little after 8, we heard a loud noise and didn’t think anything of it,” U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Vandroff told Fox News. “Someone with the presence of mind, and if I find out who it is, I’m going to thank them for it, closed our office doors.
“We got down on the floor as low as we could and barricaded ourselves in with tables and chairs,” he added. Vandroff said he frantically texted co-workers to check on them until police led them out of the office around 10 a.m.