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Washington Navy Yard shooting

September 17, 2013

Investigators are continuing to look for clues about what led a gunman to kill a dozen people and wound 14 more inside an office building at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday. The shooter, identified by the FBI as 34-year-old Navy veteran Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, was killed in a gun battle with police. See below for the latest updates on the investigation, the victims and the situation at the Navy Yard, a secure military base just south of the U.S. Capitol and east of Nationals Park.

Monday’s live updatesWednesday’s live updates

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Ryan Stoner, a 33-year-old tattoo artist, lives in the Brooklyn apartment below Aaron Alexis’s family — his mother, two sisters, a brother-in-law and nephew. Police have confirmed that the family living there is related to Alexis.

The family moved into the apartment in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood about a year ago, Stoner said, and have mostly kept to themselves. But after the FBI left around midnight on Monday, Stoner said Alexis’s sisters came downstairs to talk.

Stoner said the women told him that the FBI had asked the same questions over and over, questions they couldn’t answer. Stoner said the two women had not talked to their brother in years and that he had never visited their new home. When one of the sisters, Naomi Alexis, got married, her brother was not at the wedding. Her new husband, Anthony Little, has never met Aaron Alexis, Stoner said.

  • Theresa Vargas
  • ·

Aaron Alexis was geeky, arrogant and quiet, but social enough that he attended department parties when he worked at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, said Barry Williams, who was Alexis’ manager there.  Alexis was a part-time clerical assistant in the college’s administrative computing office from February 2001 to February 2003.

But Alexis did stand out in one area, Williams said.

“The only thing that I thought was maybe out of the average is he kind of held onto grudges a little more than most people,” Williams said. “Things that would bother him, they might be the same things that might bother other people, but three or four weeks later, even if it was a minor thing he’d still be grumbling about it.”

He couldn’t remember any specific examples, but he said they were all work related.

“Somebody would make a mistake that he thought was a bonehead idiotic mistake, but he’d go on and on about it for weeks,” Williams said. “He’d remember that same silly incident and go on and on about it.”

Williams, who is now the college information security officer but was the network manager at the time, said Alexis had been a student in the school’s continuing education program and received Cisco certification. Williams said that Alexis mostly helped to manage the routers and monitor the college’s network. At the time, such assistants often earned $10 to $12 an hour.

“He wasn’t the sort of quiet guy that turns out to do these things. He would go to the office parties. He would interact with people. It didn’t seem like he was the kind of person who was so withdrawn that would be boiling up in his subconscious ready to explode,” Williams said.

“The only thing I’m thinking,” he added, “is if decades of being the type of person to be easily frustrated and if there is some kind of violent tendency there, after a while that’s going to build up and it could be the next person who sets you off with the smallest thing.”

  • Theresa Vargas
  • ·

Kristi Suthamtewakul, a blond, quick-to-laugh woman, described Aaron Alexis as family. He lived with her and her husband, Nutpisit “Oui” Suthamtewakul, and was a staple at the Thai restaurant they own, Happy Bowl. But the relationship also had its strains.

Kristi Suthamtewakul said Alexis was frustrated with her cats and the fleas they had brought into the house. At one point, one went missing, but the couple said they don’t blame Alexis for that. They also stop short of accusing him of a sinister act committed around the same time: putting sugar in their car tank.

“I don’t know if he did it, honestly,” Kristi Suthamtewakul said. What she does know is that on July 5, her car wouldn’t start and few people had access to it. “Well, I can say our car was locked in the garage and he was the only one who had keys to the house,” she said.

According to an incident report from the Fort Worth Police department, Oui Suthamtewakul called authorities that day. A summary of the incident said he believed “his roommate put unknown substance in gas tank to damage vehicle.”

On Tuesday, when reporters asked Kristi Suthamtewakul  if she still considered Alexis family, she said yes.

“We don’t turn our back on our family,” she said.

Leslie Minora contributed to this report.

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

As Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) requested that the U.S. House of Representatives join her in a moment of silence, she read off the names of the 12 workers killed in the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday.

Norton pointed out that many of those killed were “skilled, white-collar workers” whose presence in Southeast Washington jump-started revitalization in the surrounding neighborhood.

“Though we knew little of the work done in that secure facility,” Norton said, “we did know this: These federal employees deserve our respect and our admiration because they and their work were vital to our nation.”

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office has released an audit that criticizes the Navy for cutting costs by reducing security at Washington Navy Yard and other facilities. Alex Rogers, a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau, first reported on this audit Monday.

Toward the beginning of the 56-page document, dated Monday, is a memo from an assistant inspector general to top Navy officials that raises grave concerns about the Navy Commercial Access Control System (NCACS) and alleges that the Navy did not effectively mitigate risks associated with contractors. Such risks “allowed convicted felons to access Navy installations without the knowledge and approval of the installation commander,” the memo states.

You can read the full audit on the Web site of the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office: “Navy Commercial Access Control System Did Not Effectively Mitigate Access Control Risks.”

  • Sari Horwitz
  • ·

Aaron Alexis received treatment at two Veterans Affairs hospitals after having contact with police in Rhode Island in early August, according to federal law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Alexis said he was hearing voices and having problems sleeping, and he sought treatment for insomnia, the officials said.

Police in Newport, R.I., received a phone call from Alexis on Aug. 7 and responded at about 6:30 a.m., according to a police report. Alexis told police that he was on a business trip and had moved from hotel to hotel to escape three people who were keeping him awake “by talking to him and sending vibrations into his body,” according to police.

Alexis told police he did not have a history of mental illness in his family, “and that he has never had any sort of mental episode.” Lt. William Fitzgerald of the Newport police said that a copy of the report was sent to nearby Naval Station Newport.

Lisa Rama, a public affairs officer at Naval Station Newport, said officials at the Rhode Island military base were cooperating with the FBI. She declined to answer questions or comment on whether military police followed up on the August report.

Washington Post staff writers David Fahrenthold and Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

  • Steve Vogel
  • ·

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate veterans affairs’ committees requested Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provide information about mental health care or other treatment it provided Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard gunman who was shot and killed by police Monday.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House committee, sent a letter that asked the VA for “details surrounding any and all inpatient or outpatient care requested by and/or provided to Mr. Alexis, any appointments for care missed or pending by Mr. Alexis, his befits status, and any services that may have been afforded to him through any other program at the VA.”

Neither committee had received a response from the VA as of Tuesday evening, according to congressional officials.

“We’re referring all questions to the FBI,” said Victoria Dillon, a spokeswoman for the VA.

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

Leading up to Monday’s shooting, Aaron Alexis was living at a Residence Inn in Southwest Washington. Alexis checked into the hotel Sept. 7, FBI spokeswoman Valerie Parlave said Tuesday.

Late on Monday night, dozens of FBI agents trickled into the hotel, said Than Su, an employee at the Residence Inn gift shop. He said agents were still arriving when he left work around 11:30 p.m.

“This is quiet season,” said Su, who has worked in the shop for two years. “But it was not yesterday.”

Another gift shop employee, Hmwe Kyi, said that she recognized Alexis because she sold him a phone charger Saturday evening.

Victoria St. Martin contributed to this report.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

President Obama has ordered the Office of Management and Budget to review the security standards for federal employees and government contractors, according to the Associated Press.

This follows news that Aaron Alexis, the gunman in the Navy Yard shootings, had secret-level security clearance since 2007. His clearance was updated in July.

More than 4.9 million federal government workers and contractors held a security clearance in 2012, most of them working for the Department of Defense, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The Office of Personnel Management, which handles security checks for more than 100 federal agencies, has been urged to improve the quality of such checks. That office looks at the backgrounds of about 2 million people a year. The agency’s inspector general said this year that there was “an alarmingly insufficient level of oversight” at the organization.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to order a security review at all U.S. bases worldwide. This followed the order issued by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to look at security procedures at Navy and Marine Corps installations.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), in a letter released Tuesday, asked President Obama to form an independent panel to investigate the issues raised by the shooting.

“I have every confidence that the appropriate congressional committees and the Department of Defense, the Navy and federal and local law enforcement agencies will conduct a thorough investigation of the shootings,” Norton wrote.

But she said that questions about security are often “left almost exclusively to security and military experts.” These experts need additional experts in technology, psychology and city and land use planning, she wrote, because the Navy Yard and similar facilities are part of civilian communities.

The shooting should be used “to evaluate how to secure federal employees” at such complexes, Norton said.

  • Sari Horwitz
  • ·

Aaron Alexis had a history of mental illness and was treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, two federal law enforcement officials said Tuesday. Alexis also told people he was hearing “voices,’’ said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the investigation into the shootings unfolded, and said they could not specify the nature or duration of the mental health treatment that Alexis received.

The two officials could not say when the treatment took place, but a third federal law enforcement official said Alexis had contact with the VA recently. FBI officials said they were examining the mental history of Alexis, who was killed Monday in a gun battle with police after allegedly killing at least 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.

You can read more here: “Navy Yard gunman had history of mental illness, checkered military career, officials say.”

  • Barry Svrluga
  • ·

The Washington Nationals punctuated the first game after yesterday’s Navy Yard shootings with a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday afternoon, a game that opened with a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims and concluded with players’ thoughts, divided between an important win and the tragic circumstances that served as a backdrop.

Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg and teammates wear Navy hats before playing the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg and teammates wear Navy hats before playing the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Nationals Park is only a few blocks from Navy Yard, where 12 people and a gunman were killed Monday, and a stadium parking lot was designated as a meeting place for relatives and friends of Navy Yard employees. The Nationals wore special blue jerseys with red-and-white starred ‘W’s on the chest – shirts normally reserved for patriotic occasions such as Sept. 11 remembrances. They also donned Navy caps for pregame warmups.

“We’re still feeling it,” starting pitcher Dan Haren said. “I think at least when I woke up, driving to the field, crossing over the bridge – I look over there, and it made me think about it, and putting on the blue jersey before the game with the Navy hats, I think that we were all thinking about it all game, really.”

The Nationals and Braves will play the second half of the doubleheader at 7:05 p.m. You can read more about today’s game here:  ”Nats stage three-run comeback in ninth to beat Braves in first game of doubleheader.”

  • Natalie Jennings
  • ·

How can you protect yourself during a mass shooting emergency? A former Navy SEAL offers advice.

Matt Maasdam, a former Navy SEAL and CEO of Move2Safety, which offers training to mitigate danger from “active shooters” and other emergency situations, joined Nia Malika Henderson On Background. Watch his full interview, and check out his top four tips for reacting to gunmen:

1. Move to safety
Move as fast as you can away from the threat. You can move toward anything, as long as it’s away from the person who is shooting.

An active shooter hits their target 4 percent of the time at close range if that person is moving, Maasdam said. “If you are moving, you are almost always going to get away safely. And those 4 percent don’t all die.”

That brings up another point: “If you’re hit, it doesn’t mean you’re dead. Keep going. Never quit. You can get to definitive care. Medical coverage in America is so good. It’s not like being in Afghanistan where you’d have to wait two hours for helicopter. There is going to be somebody there in a couple of minutes.”

2. Be aware of your exits
Most people think of their exit as the door they come in and out of at work every day. Consider emergency exits, windows, and other exits that you don’t typically use.

This is a SEAL training tactic. “When we get shot, the first thing we look for is an exit,” Maasdam said. “What we’re looking for is to get out of that line of fire.”

3. Utilize cover and get low
If there are chairs or anything else low in the room, duck to that height and stay behind it. Scramble on all fours in an effort to lower your profile.

“I’m 6 feet tall. If I’m standing up, I’m giving four feet of target,” said Maasdam. “If I’m down on my knees and move fast, I am giving him inches. It radically reduces the likelihood you’ll get hit.”

4. Don’t think it can’t happen to you
“I couldn’t believe it” is a common refrain after a shooting event. Maasdam said training for everyone would be ideal, but just thinking through the possibility and how you would react is a huge first step.

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

Details are beginning to emerge about what happened inside Building 197 at the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington on Monday. Many of those who were killed were in the building’s lobby and on the third and fourth floors, according to police. And as eyewitnesses share what they saw and heard on Monday, a fuller picture begins to emerge.

The Washington Post’s graphics staff has sifted through all of those reports and created this map: What happened inside Building 197?

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.25.56 PM

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

TWD & Associates, Inc., an Arlington-based IT company, is mourning the death of two employees in Monday’s massacre: John “J.J.” Johnson, a company employee, and Frank Kohler, a subcontractor.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our co-workers and friends and everyone affected by yesterday’s horrific events,” Larry Besterman, president and chief executive officer of the company, said in a statement on Tuesday. “These were dedicated employees who cared about their work and their colleagues. The senseless violence that claimed their lives cannot erase the memory of their friendship and contributions.”

TWD & Associates, Inc., had 145 employees and contract employees based at Washington Navy Yard.

You can read more about the 12 victims of yesterday’s shooting here: Remembering the victims.

  • Tom Jackman
  • ·

The lawyer for SharpShooters Small Arms Range and gun shop in Lorton, J. Michael Slocum, this afternoon released a statement saying that Aaron Alexis purchased a Remington 870 shotgun and about two boxes of shells this past weekend.

Slocum said Sharpshooters ran a background check on Alexis through the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System database and was approved. Alexis does not appear to have had any convictions or formally reported mental health issues which would have prevented him from buying a weapon in Virginia.

Prior to the purchase on Saturday, Alexis rented a rifle, purchased some ammunition and fired in the SharpShooters shooting range, Slocum said. The Sunday visit was the only one by Alexis to SharpShooters, Slocum said.

The SharpShooters gun store and shooting range, in an industrial park on Terminal Road in Lorton, has been there since 1986, store employees said, and was originally known as Gilbert’s. Both the store and the firing range were busy as soon as they opened Tuesday morning. Employees referred all questions to Slocum, the store’s lawyer.

Federal investigators visited SharpShooters on Monday evening, Slocum said, and reviewed both the store’s records and its surveillance video.

This post was updated at 8:40 p.m. to correct the date that Alexis purchased the shotgun.

  • David Fahrenthold
  • ·

On Aug. 7, Aaron Alexis called police to his hotel room in Newport, R.I., and told them that he was being followed by three people who were keeping him awake “by talking to him and sending vibrations into his body,” according to a police report. The caller’s name has been blacked out on the report, but Lt. William Fitzgerald of the Newport police confirmed that it was Alexis.

The report says that Alexis told police he was a naval contractor and travels often. He said he had been in a “verbal altercation” with somebody on his flight from Virginia to Rhode Island. That unknown person had sent people to follow him, Alexis told police. He had moved from a hotel in Middletown, R.I. to a hotel on a Navy base, but “he heard the same voices talking to him through the walls, floor and ceiling,” the report says.

When Alexis called, he was in his third hotel. But he told police that “the voices were coming through the ceiling,” and that the people were using “’some sort of microwave machine’ to send vibrations through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he cannot fall asleep.”

Alexis would not say what the voices were saying to him, the report said. Alexis “stated that he has never felt anything like this and is worried that these individuals are going to harm him,” the report said.

Alexis told police he did not have a history of mental illness in his family, “and that he has never had any sort of mental episode.”

Officers told Alexis not to have contact with the individuals he believed to be following him, and left. In a telephone interview, Fitzgerald said there was no cause for an arrest.

“He called us, as the victim. He was fearful that these people were going to harm him,” Fitzgerald said. He said officers saw no reason to bring Alexis in for mental-health treatment: “People make a complaint like that to us all the time.”

Fitzgerald said that a copy of the report was sent to nearby Naval Station Newport. He did not know what happened then. “They said they would follow up,” Fitzgerald said.

Lisa Rama, a public affairs officer at Naval Station Newport, said officials at the Rhode Island military base were cooperating with the FBI. She declined to answer questions or comment on whether military police followed up on the August report from the Newport Police Department that Alexis had been “hearing voices.”

Washington Post staff writer Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

  • Phoebe Connelly
  • ·

How do people return to normal life after witnessing a horrific crime? Nia-Malika Henderson talks to Alan Lipman, a psychologist from the Center for the Study of Violence. (The Washington Post)

  • Ann Marimow
  • ·

More details emerged about the timeline of Monday’s mass shooting. D.C. police officers arrived at the scene within two minutes of receiving a call for help. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said two emergency response units arrived outside the building within seven minutes and could hear shots inside. They entered the building immediately, she said, and engaged multiple times with the shooter for a period of more than a half hour.

The 12 employees were shot to death by Alexis inside the building, “while in the lobby, and on the third and fourth floors,” according to a statement from the D.C. police.

Alexis was “determined to kill as many people as possible,” Lanier said, and officers “saved numerous lives by engaging the way they did.”

Valerie Parlave, head of the FBI’s field office, told reporters Tuesday that Alexis entered the building using a valid access card with a shotgun he purchased legally and “may have gained access” to a second handgun inside. Parlave said Alexis did not have an assault rifle and a spokeswoman said Alexis did not use one.

Parlave said the FBI is looking into Alexis’s past, including his medical and criminal history, but declined to answer additional questions about his record.

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