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Alexis 'seemed harmless, if really awkward'

Sep. 17, 2013 - 01:48PM   |  
A profile has begun to emerge of Aaron Alexis, the man authorities identified as the gunman in a mass shooting at a Navy complex in Washington, D.C., that left 13 people dead, including him.
A profile has begun to emerge of Aaron Alexis, the man authorities identified as the gunman in a mass shooting at a Navy complex in Washington, D.C., that left 13 people dead, including him. (Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul via AP)
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A look at shootings at other military posts

WASHINGTON — A former Navy man opened fire Monday at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving at least 13 people dead, including the gunman. It was the deadliest shooting rampage at a U.S.-based military installation since Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas.
Here is a look at other shootings at military installations in recent years:
July 21, 2013: Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Tech. Sgt. Matthew Hullman dies following a shooting incident.
April 2013: Fort Knox, Ky. Lloyd Gibert, a civilian employer at a Fort Knox parking lot, was shot to death outside the post's Army Human Resources Command building. Sgt. Marquinta E. Jacobs, was arrested in the killing.
March 21, 2013: Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Corp. Jacob Wooley, 23, of Guntown, Miss., is killed by Sgt. Eusebio Lopez, 25, of Pacifica, Calif., military officials said. Lopez also shoots Lance Cpl. Sara Castromata, 19, of Oakley, Calif., to death before he kills himself.
June 4, 2012: Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha, Neb. Zachari Johnson, 21, of Lincoln, dies at an Omaha hospital after being shot by an Air Force security contractor. Authorities say Johnson was shot when he crashed a car through a base entrance. Air Force officials have said the guard followed procedure when he shot Johnson.
Sept. 18, 2011: Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Lance Corporal Daryl Adams, 22, an avionics technician is shot and wounded in Yuma. The shooting is accidental and the suspect is also a local Marine.
May 19, 2010: MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla. The FBI says military veteran Ronald J. Bullock, 61, of Hanson, Mass. is fatally shot by one of its agents at MacDill Air Force Base. The FBI says Bullock was involved in an altercation at the campground that led to a pursuit by base police. When the FBI agent confronted him, Bullock pulled a knife and the agent shot him.
Feb.22, 2010: Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Ariz. Gabriel Aguilera, 19, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and unlawful flight from law enforcement. Aguilera drove a stolen car into Luke Air Force Base, which resulted in the fatal shooting of his 16-year-old passenger.
Dec. 11, 2009: Near Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Airman 1st Class Corey Hernandez, 21, fatally shoots Senior Airman Michael Garvia, 23, of San Benito, Texax in a game of "trust." Hernandez is later sentenced to five years of confinement and given a dishonorable discharge.
Nov. 5, 2009: Fort Hood Army Base, Fort Hood, Texas. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Nadal Hasan, 39, was convicted in August 2013 for killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.
Oct. 13, 2005: Fort Campbell, Ky. Pvt. Nicholas D. Mikel, 21, is accused of firing shots into a group of soldiers; no one is injured. Mikel is later sentenced to 25 years in jail. — AP
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Aaron Alexis seems a study in contradictions: a former U.S. Navy sailor, a Defense Department contractor, a convert to Buddhism who was taking an online course in aeronautics. But he also had flashes of temper that led to incidents with police over shootings in Texas and Seattle.

A profile has begun to emerge of the man authorities identified as the gunman in a mass shooting at a Navy complex in Washington, D.C., that left 13 people dead, including him. While some neighbors and acquaintances described the 34-year-old Alexis as “nice,” his father once told detectives in Seattle that his son had anger management problems related to post-traumatic stress brought on by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Alexis also complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that Alexis had been suffering from a number of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said. Alexis had been treated since August by the federal Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was continuing.

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

Family members told investigators Alexis was being treated for his mental issues.

At the time of the shootings, he worked for The Experts, a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network.

Alexis lived in Seattle in 2004 and 2005, according to public documents. In 2004, Seattle police said Alexis was arrested for shooting out the tires of another man’s vehicle in what he later described to detectives as an anger-fueled “blackout.” According to an account on the department’s website, two construction workers had parked their car in the driveway of their worksite, next to a home where Alexis was staying. The workers reported seeing a man, later identified by police as Alexis, walk out of the home and fire three shots into the rear tires.

Workers at the construction site told police Alexis had stared at them daily for several weeks. The owner of the construction business told police he believed Alexis was angry over the parking situation.

Police eventually arrested Alexis, found a gun and ammunition in his room and booked him into jail for malicious mischief.

According to the police account, Alexis told detectives he perceived he had been “mocked” by construction workers the morning of the incident. Alexis also claimed he had an anger-fueled “blackout,” and could not remember firing his gun until an hour after the incident.

Alexis also told police he was present during “the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001” and described “how those events had disturbed him.”

In 2007, he enlisted in the Navy reserves, serving through 2011, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Megan Shutka.

While he was still in the reserves, a neighbor in Texas reported she had been nearly struck by a bullet shot from his downstairs apartment. Alexis admitted to firing his weapon but said he was cleaning his gun when it accidentally discharged.

Officials say that Alexis had bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and was sometimes absent from work without authorization. The offenses occurred mainly when he was serving in Fort Worth, Texas, from 2008-2011, and were enough to prompt Navy officials to grant him an early discharge through a special program for enlisted personnel.

Officials said the bad conduct was enough to make it clear Alexis would not be a good sailor, but not enough to warrant a general or less-than-honorable discharge.

Court records also show that Alexis was thrown out of a metro Atlanta nightclub in 2008 and cited for disorderly conduct.

The disorderly conduct citation in DeKalb County states that Aaron Alexis damaged furnishings inside the club on Chamblee-Tucker Road near Interstate 285.

The records obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press say he began using profanity repeatedly outside the nightspot. The citation says he wouldn't stop swearing, despite being told several times.

After leaving the Navy, Alexis worked as a waiter and delivery driver at the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, according to Afton Bradley, a former co-worker. Alexis left in May, Bradley said.

Having traveled to Thailand, Alexis learned some Thai and could speak to Thai customers in their native language.

“He was a very nice person,” Bradley said in a phone interview. “It kind of blows my mind away. I wouldn’t think anything bad at all.”

A former acquaintance, Oui Suthametewakul, said Alexis lived with him and his wife from August 2012 to May 2013 in Fort Worth, but that they had to part ways because he wasn’t paying his bills. Alexis was a “nice guy,” Suthametewakul said, though he sometimes carried a gun and would frequently complain about being a victim of discrimination.

Suthametewakul said Alexis had converted to Buddhism and prayed at a local Buddhist temple.

“We are all shocked. We are nonviolent. Aaron was a very good practitioner of Buddhism. He could chant better than even some of the Thai congregants,” said Ty Thairintr, a congregant at Wat Budsaya, a Buddhist temple in Fort Worth.

Thairintr said Alexis told him he was upset with the Navy because “he thought he never got a promotion because of the color of his skin. He hated his commander.”

As Thairintr and others at the temple understood, Alexis took a job as a contractor and he indicated to them he was going to go to Virginia. He last saw him five weeks ago.

In the early 2000s, before he moved to Seattle, Alexis lived with his mother in an apartment in New York City, said Gene Demby, who said he dated one of Alexis’ younger sisters at the time.

“I wouldn’t call him nice, but he seemed harmless, if really awkward,” said Demby. “He was insecure. He was like a barbershop conspiracy theorist, the kind of guy who believes he’s smarter than everyone else. He also was kind of like perpetually aggrieved, but not megalomaniacal or delusional.”

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which offers online courses in aviation and aerospace, confirmed that Alexis was enrolled as an online student, started classes in July 2012 and was pursuing a bachelor’s of science in aeronautics.

“We are cooperating fully with investigating officials,” the university said.

———

Associated Press writers Mike Baker and Phuong Le in Seattle, Nomaan Merchant in Dallas, John L. Mone in White Settlement, Texas, and Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Lolita C. Baldor, Ben Nuckols and Brett Zongker in Washington contributed to this report.

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