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Gunman in Navy Yard rampage was hearing voices

By Brett Zonger, Eric Tucker & Lolita C. Baldor

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:20 a.m. HST, Sep 17, 2013

WASHINGTON » The former Navy reservist who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been hearing voices and was undergoing treatment in the weeks before the shooting rampage, but was not stripped of his security clearance, officials said today.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee with a defense contractor, used a valid pass to get into the highly secured installation Monday morning and started firing inside a building, the FBI said. He was killed in a gun battle with police.

The motive for the mass shooting — the deadliest on a military installation in the U.S. since the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 — was a mystery, investigators said.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that there was no known connection to terrorism and that investigators have found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motive.

Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.

He had been treated since August by Veterans Affairs, the officials said.

The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserve.

The assault is likely to raise more questions about the adequacy of the background checks done on contract employees and others who are issued security clearances — an issue that came up most recently with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, an IT employee with a government contractor.

In the hours after the Navy Yard attack, a profile of Alexis began coming into focus.

A Buddhist convert who had also had flare-ups of rage, Alexis, a black man who grew up in New York City and whose last known address was in Fort Worth, Texas, complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination. He also had run-ins with the law over shootings in 2004 and 2010 in Texas and Seattle, and was ticketed for disorderly conduct after being thrown out of a metro Atlanta nightclub in 2008.

Alexis' bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and being absent from work without authorization prompted the Navy to grant him an early — but honorable — discharge in 2011 after nearly four years as a full-time reservist, authorities said. During his service, he repaired aircraft electrical systems at Fort Worth.

In addition to those killed at the Navy Yard attack, eight people were hurt, including three who were shot and wounded, authorities said. Those three were a police officer and two female civilians. They were all expected to survive.

The dead ranged in age from 46 to 73, officials said. A number of the victims were civilian employees and contractors, rather than active-duty military personnel.

Those killed included: Michael Arnold, 59, a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home; Sylvia Frasier, 53, who worked in computer security; Kathleen Gaarde, 63, a financial analyst; and Frank Kohler, 50, a former president of the Rotary Club in Lexington Park, Md., who proudly reigned as "King Oyster" at the region's annual seafood festival.

Monday's onslaught at a single building at the 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.

"This is a horrific tragedy," Mayor Vincent Gray said.

Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the AP on Monday that the gunman carried an AR-15 assault rifle. Today they said he used a shotgun plus two handguns that he took from law officers at the scene. They said he did not actually use the AR-15, which was found at the scene.

For much of the day Monday, 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.

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.

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 produce 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.

Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.

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1local wrote:
exactly what could have prevented anyone from bringing firearms onto the military installation? no search of vehicles is performed in low level security check stations. Also perpetrators will most likely ensure that their members have no record. The majority of civilians and military are unarmed both on base and off base - making all sitting ducks...
on September 17,2013 | 06:31AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
on September 17,2013 | 11:45AM
serious wrote:
Hearing voices?? If he were to be walking around Honolulu, he wouldn't be noticed.
on September 17,2013 | 06:47AM
cwo4usn1 wrote:
Media already making excuses for him. It's always someone else's fault - todays culture.
on September 17,2013 | 07:32AM
ryan02 wrote:
When I first heard about this shooting, the first thing that entered my head was "disgruntled employee." I mean people snap all the time, but why target his workplace? Whatever pushed him over the edge was work-related. That's where I would start looking if I wanted to find a motive.
on September 17,2013 | 07:42AM
blkdrgn wrote:
An AR15 is not an assault rifle. Please get your facts straight.
on September 17,2013 | 08:27AM
joseph007 wrote:
No you are right.. the AR 15 is a pop gun.
on September 17,2013 | 08:48AM
Usagi336 wrote:
Interesting that the AR15 was mentioned. Law enforcement personnel at the scene said that the rifle wasn't used during the shooting. But the press had to mention it to add to the anti gun hype. And you're right, it is not an assault rifle because it does not have a selective fire option.
on September 17,2013 | 09:05AM
blkdrgn wrote:
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." I bet he is going to push gun control to hold legal gun owners responsible.
on September 17,2013 | 08:29AM
DeltaDag wrote:
FBI spokesperson confirmed that Alexis was armed with a shotgun - not an AR-15. The "fog of war" takes a long tme to lift, even in the age of the Internet.
on September 17,2013 | 08:54AM
Usagi336 wrote:
I think from now on whenever there might be a multiple shooting scene, an AR15 will be thrown in with the rest of the evidence until those rifles are banned.
on September 17,2013 | 09:09AM
Wage Earner wrote:
I wish the loudest voice he heard said, "Suicide is the way to go?"
on September 17,2013 | 08:56AM
stingray65 wrote:
Guns will be the blame!! Not a person did the shooting..But, they never blame on cars that run over people... What is with that mentality?
on September 17,2013 | 09:23AM
ryan02 wrote:
Cars are not manufactured for the express purpose of running people over, their primary purpose is transportation. I could kill someone by bashing them over the head with a toaster, but toasters are not manufactured with the primary purpose of killing people. Guns are made for the express purpose of killing people. That's why they need to be regulated MUCH more stringently than cars or toasters -- such a periodic testing of the gun owner (like a car driver), mandatory insurance in case the gun ends up hurting or killing someone (like a car); registration and safety check like a car; transfer of ownership doesn't occur until it is registered with the government, like a car, mandatory safety features so kids cannot operate them; and so forth.
on September 17,2013 | 09:33AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
I use my AR-15 to hunt ducks
on September 17,2013 | 11:54AM
Bully wrote:
Schizophrenia. Theres a lot of them out there but you dont know which one is going to act violently to the voices in their heads.
on September 17,2013 | 10:16AM
Grimbold wrote:
They should all be locked up. They are a menace because you do not know what irrational thing they can do at any moment.
on September 17,2013 | 11:45AM
Honto5 wrote:
So President Barrack, can you tell us when you look at this suspect, could this have been you 18 years ago? or can you only identify with Trayvon Martin to spark more hatred and racial tension into an already "Divided Nation". Or NAACP....why no statement or backing support of suspect's claim that he was a "victim of discrimination"? My guess is you don't want to touch this one since you must realize this situaton must not look good for the Advancement of your organization and it's more easy to play the "Race Card" then to take responsibility. Instead of looking to only call attention of acts of oppression that hinder your race or people, use the NAACP organization to truly educate and help those in poverty and make an effort to rid the gangs and drugs that plague the inner cities. Advancement will come when you decide what you can do to help yourself and not want others MUST do for you. It's not the responsitility of the tax payer's.
on September 17,2013 | 10:31AM
eoe wrote:
It's 10:30 and you forgot to take your meds.
on September 17,2013 | 11:08AM
Honto5 wrote:
I don't take meds, but yes, I realize my statement isn't nice to say.
on September 17,2013 | 02:52PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Navy yard - massacre of innocents by a man with mental illness. Travon - young black dude walking home alone with Skittles stalked by gun wielding community watch volunteer, ends up dead. You trying to draw parallels? You don't see the difference?
on September 17,2013 | 11:59AM
Honto5 wrote:
The difference I see is one is now dead and cannot be tried for his crime while the other one was acquitted by the jury of his peers. Even key witnesses for the prosecution in this case seemed to side with the so called "gun wielding community watch volunteer." The bottom line is, two blacks were involved in separate cases, but the President chose to play the "race card" by aligning himself with one of the victims. He should let the Justice System and the Law of the Land to Govern itself and not use his Oval Office influence to sway racial emotion and social unrest. That's all I'm saying.
on September 17,2013 | 02:37PM
Grimbold wrote:
There we go again: Another insane person commit murder. Why are the insane people not committed? There is many in Honolulu roaming the streets and only their ineptitude prevents them from doing the many murders which they undoubtedly would want to commit..
on September 17,2013 | 11:42AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
on September 17,2013 | 01:24PM
64hoo wrote:
where's al Sharpton and jesse Jackson condemning this shooter.
on September 17,2013 | 10:44PM
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