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Shooting spree on DC naval base leaves 13 dead
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 16, 2013


Suspected Navy Yard shooter: veteran with anger issues
Washington (AFP) Sept 16, 2013 - A picture emerged Monday of Aaron Alexis, the man suspected of killing a dozen people at the Washington Naval Yard, as a decorated sailor with a troubled past and anger issues.

Alexis, 34, is reported to have used guns in moments of anger but was also known as a quiet man who meditated regularly at a Buddhist temple in Texas and had taught himself Thai.

The defense contractor was killed in a gunfight with police, who have not yet speculated as to a motive for the shooting, which also left several people hurt.

Born in New York, Alexis served in the military from 2007 until 2011, the US Navy said.

"There is definitely a pattern of misconduct during his service," a US military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The officer did not yet know if Alexis had been dishonorably discharged and could not provide details of his work as a defense contractor.

Three years before he enlisted, Alexis was arrested in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a car in what he later told detectives was an anger-fueled blackout after construction workers had "disrespected him."

He told police that he could not remember firing his gun until about an hour after the incident, according to a police report posted online by the Seattle police.

He explained to detectives that he was in New York during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and described "how those events had disturbed him."

Detectives later spoke with his father, who told them his son's "anger management problems" were due to post-traumatic stress disorder and that he had been an "active participant in rescue attempts" after the attacks.

"From the outside, he was a quiet person," J. Sirun, an assistant to the monks at the Buddhist temple Alexis attended in Texas, told the Washington Post.

"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."

While he was the kind of man who'd help others carrying heavy things, at least one worker at the Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center avoided him because he seemed so tightly wound, Sirun told the paper.

"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."

A former roommate who described Alexis as his "best friend" was shocked by the news.

"I don't think he'd do this," Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of Happy Bowl Thai, told the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

"He has a gun, but I don't think he's that stupid. He didn't seem aggressive to me."

A former landlord, who also frequents the temple, was also stunned by the news and said he'd never seen Alexis get angry about anything.

"Oh boy, I can't believe this," Srisan told the Star Telegram. "He was always very polite to me."

Srisan said he doesn't know why Alexis left the navy. 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 told the Washington Post. "He said somebody doesn't like me."

Alexis spent the bulk of his military career in a fleet logistics support squad in Fort Worth, rising to the rank of Aviation Electrician's Mate, third class, the Navy said.

He received two common awards during his service: the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

The Seattle incident was not the only time Alexis was in trouble with the law, according to a police report posted on the Star Telegram's website.

An upstairs neighbor, who told police she was "terrified" of Alexis after a longstanding dispute over noise, called for help after a bullet flew up through her floor one evening.

A former US naval reservist opened fire at a base in the heart of Washington on Monday, killing 12 people and exchanging fire with police before losing his own life.

Police identified the alleged shooter as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, of Forth Worth, Texas, who served full-time in the Navy from 2007 to 2011 before becoming a defense contractor.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public for information on the suspect, whose military service was marked by misconduct and who reportedly had once been arrested but not charged in Texas for shooting a bullet through his apartment ceiling.

"No piece of information is too small. We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements, his contacts and his associates," said Valerie Parlave, assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office.

The FBI released a photo of Alexis, an African-American who held the rank of an Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class and had served full-time in a logistics support squadron in Forth Worth, according to the Navy.

Alexis reportedly had expressed an interest in Buddhism, friends told local media in Texas, while his four-year stint in the Navy was troubled.

"There is definitely a pattern of misconduct during his service," a US military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The Navy had yet to release the precise nature of the suspect's work as a contractor.

The shooting sparked a massive show of force as police and federal agents descended on the Navy Yard, cordoning off streets only blocks from the US Capitol, home of Congress.

Officials gave no indication of any link to terrorism but said the motive for the attack on the installation was unknown.

President Barack Obama ordered that flags be flown at half mast in the US capital until Friday as a mark of respect for the dead.

Obama called the shooting a "cowardly act" and lamented that America was confronting "yet another mass shooting," saying troops in the military should not have to confront danger at home.

Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray said "we don't have any reason at this stage to suspect terrorism, but certainly it has not been ruled out."

He announced the number of dead from the shooting was at 13, with about dozen more wounded, including a police officer.

A second suspect was still being sought, an African-American male aged 40 to 50, clad in an olive-drab military-style uniform, authorities said.

Washington city police chief Cathy Lanier asked "that people stay out of the area until we give the all-clear."

Earlier media reports had said the shooter was armed with an assault rifle and had allegedly barricaded himself in a room in a headquarters building.

After the first reports of shots came at 8:20 am (1320 GMT) in the headquarters building of the Naval Sea Systems Command, police arrived within three minutes and exchanged fire in "multiple engagements" with the suspect, Lanier said.

It was unclear how the attacker could have penetrated the heavy security that surrounds the Navy Yard, which is located on the Anacostia River, less than two miles (three kilometers) from the Capitol.

But the suspect's work as a naval contractor raised the possibility that he had a pass that could gain him entry to the Naval Sea Systems Command, which oversees ship-building programs tcarried out by defense firms.

A Washington police officer was among those injured in the rampage, and hospital officials said he suffered serious wounds to his legs but was expected to survive.

One employee at the Navy Yard, Patricia Ward, said she had just paid for her breakfast at a cafeteria when shots rang out.

"I was waiting for my friend to pay when we heard the gun shot. It was three gun shots straight in a row, 'pow-pow-pow,'" she told reporters.

"Three seconds later it was 'pow-pow-pow.' So it was like a total of seven gun shots. And we just started running."

As helicopters swarmed overhead, police earlier blocked off intersections around the Navy Yard and patrol boats moved in near the site along the banks of the Anacostia river.

Flights out of the nearby Reagan National Airport were briefly delayed and schools were on lockdown until anxious parents came to pick up their children in the afternoon.

The US Senate adjourned for the day as a precaution, and Washington's baseball team, the Nationals, whose stadium is adjacent to the Navy Yard, called off its Monday evening game.

About 3,000 people work at the naval facility, which dates back to the early 1800s and includes a naval history museum.

The complex also has a residence which serves as the home of the four-star chief of the US Navy, Admiral Jonathan Greenert.

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