The suspect died when the mayhem ended in a gun battle with police. Late Monday night, authorities began releasing the names of those killed in the rampage, but some family members were still awaiting word about loved ones. The dead ranged in age from 46 to 73 years old.
The shootings constituted the worst loss of life in a single incident in the region since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon killed 184 people.
“This is yet another heartbreak for our city,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Alexis left Texas about a year ago, and authorities made a public appeal Monday for help in tracing his movements since then. They said they believe he entered the Navy Yard with a valid badge and had been in the Washington region for about four months, working as an hourly employee with a defense contractor.
“We don’t know what the motive is,” said D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D). The mayor said there was no reason to suspect terrorism. Other officials said they do not know whether Alexis’s discharge played a role in the shootings but said that is one line of inquiry.
The shooting began about 8:15 a.m., when the echo of gunfire behind the walled security of a military base stunned people arriving to begin their workweek. The sprawling base on the Anacostia River has 16,000 military and civilian employees .
“I didn’t believe it,” said Alley Gibson, 28, who works in Building 197, were the shootings took place. “At first I was in shock. Nothing like this ever happens — especially not on a base. It’s just not normal. It’s wild — it’s like a movie.”
As people scattered for cover, they turned to text messages and office televisions in an effort to determine what was going on.
“We were sort of in the dark,” said John Norquist, 52, a Fairfax lawyer who served as a civilian adviser in Afghanistan last year. “We were trained in active shooter scenarios.”
The full weight of Washington’s vast anti-terrorism network converged on Southeast Washington within minutes of the first shots as local and federal law enforcement teamed to sweep the Navy Yard and the surrounding neighborhood.
The shootings threw the nation’s capital into turmoil, with police fearful that two other gunmen might be on the loose. By late Monday, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said investigators were confident that Alexis was the only gunman.
Throughout the day, people were warned to remain in their homes and those at offices on the naval base and in the surrounding neighborhood were told to stay put.