There is a great deal we don’t know yet about the Washington Navy Yard shooting perpetrated by former Navy reservist Aaron Alexis, 34, a native of Brooklyn (or, variously, Queens; have heard both today), lately a resident of Fort Worth, Texas, and now deceased.
Alexis’s naval service occurred between 2007 and 2011, during which period he was assigned to a logistics command in Fort Worth. In 2004, Alexis lived in Seattle, where he was arrested for shooting out the tires of a vehicle parked next to his home. Seattle police had this in their records:
Following his arrest, Alexis told detectives he perceived he had been “mocked” by construction workers and said they had “disrespected him.” Alexis also claimed he had an anger-fueled “blackout” and could not remember firing his gun at the victims’ vehicle until an hour after the incident.
Alexis also told police he was present during “the tragic events of September 11, 2001″ and described “how those events had disturbed him.”
Detectives later spoke with Alexis’ father, who lived in New York at the time, who told police Alexis had anger management problems associated with PTSD, and that Alexis had been an active participant in rescue attempts on Sept. 11.
In 2010, Alexis was arrested in Fort Worth for discharging a firearm inside city limits. The neighbor above his apartment reported that a shot erupted through her floor, and Alexis’s explanation to police was that he had been cleaning his gun when it went off accidentally. He was not charged with anything in that incident.
Alexis’s oddest connection appears to be with the Thai community in Fort Worth. He was a waiter in a Thai restaurant following the termination of his naval service. Reportedly, he had an unusual knowledge of the Thai language, and showed up regularly at a Thai Buddhist meditation center, where he had friends but apparently excited some wariness in others due to a high-strung personality.
Certainly, a penchant for Buddhist meditation is not associated with violence of this kind. On the face of it, Alexis simply sounds like a somewhat unstable individual. He doesn’t sound like another Nidal Hasan.
Multiple reports have suggested that he used the facility ID card of another person, a Navy chief petty officer, to access the Naval Sea Systems Command building. I am not convinced of the original reporting that Alexis was a contractor with the Navy; if he had been, the FBI would know far more about him than it seems to. As of half an hour ago, the FBI was still soliciting information on him from the public. But if Alexis had been an accredited contractor, he would have an employer who would have an employee history, address, and next-of-kin information for him. Most particularly, if he was present at the Navy Yard in a contractor capacity, his employer, and an office of NAVSEA, would have had exact knowledge of why he was there, and where he was staying in the local area. No media outlet has reported an address for him other than his last known residence in Fort Worth.
According to NBC-4 in Washington, D.C., Alexis appears to have arrived at the site of the shooting with a shotgun, but then took the 9-mm handgun (along with an extra clip) and the AR-15 rifle he used later from his victims. I stress that this reported sequence is not verified at this point. It’s just being reported by the local NBC affiliate. In any case, it is plausible – numerous people are armed on a military base – and is more likely than a single person, even one with a facility ID card, being able to walk about freely, attired in a non-standard “uniform” and carrying three different weapons.
It still isn’t clear whether there was a second gunman in the incident, but it looks increasingly unlikely. As of half an hour ago, the D.C. police were still looking for the possible second man.
President Obama referred briefly this morning to “yet another mass shooting” occurring at the Navy Yard. So far, what’s clear is that it is yet another incident that was not stopped by the existing gun laws of a gun-restrictive jurisdiction, and could not have been stopped by passing additional laws. It’s also yet another incident in which some of the first indications are of mental and emotional instability in the shooter.
We will have to await further developments to know more. Our hearts go out, and prayers go up, for the victims and their families. Perhaps we will eventually have an explanation for it. But, of course, it will never make sense.