13 die in Washington Navy Yard rampage
The shooter, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas, received a general discharge in 2011 from the Navy Reserve, a designation that usually signals a problem in his record. Alexis was arrested but not charged in a gun incident in Seattle in 2004 but still had a security clearance with a military contractor that would have allowed him access to the Navy Yard, officials said.
The suspect died when his mayhem ended in a fierce gun battle with police. Authorities did not release the names of the victims, and many family members were still awaiting word about loved ones.
The FBI took charge of the case later in the day, with President Obama promising a "seamless" investigation that coordinated D.C. police and the myriad law enforcement agencies that responded to the incident.
"This is yet another heartbreak for our city," said District of Columbia delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
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 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 Gray. The mayor said there was no reason to suspect terrorism. Other officials said they do not know whether Alexis' discharge played a role in the shooting 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.
"I didn't believe it," said Alley Gibson, 28, who works in Building 197, where the shooting 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, Va., 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 antiterrorism 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 neighborhood along the Anacostia River.
The shootings threw the nation's capital into turmoil, with police fearful that two other gunmen might be on the loose. By late Monday, police said there was no indication of a second gunman. Earlier, they were still looking for one man to make a final determination on the number of shooters.
Flights were briefly halted at Reagan National Airport. Schools near the base were locked down. The Senate adjourned early, and people were not allowed to enter or leave much of the Capitol complex. The ripple of snarled traffic spread beyond closed streets in Southeast Washington to infect travel elsewhere.
"This has been a dark day," said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio).
The Washington Nationals, whose ballpark is close to the base, were told to stay away from their stadium during the search. A critical game against the division-leading Atlanta Braves was postponed until Tuesday. The official Major League Baseball description of the game was stark: "Postponed: Tragedy."
Investigators said Alexis shot a security guard, most likely with a shotgun he bought in Lorton, Va., outside Building 197 at the Navy Yard. He took the guard's handgun before moving methodically through the interior, they said, leaving dead bodies and 14 people wounded on at least two floors before he was killed.
Among those injured was a D.C. police officer who was shot twice in the leg. He is expected to survive.
"There's no question he would have kept shooting," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who declined to say how many shots were fired from start to finish. Police said they believe that Alexis also obtained an assault rifle once he was in the building, but it was unclear how.
Perplexing to those as the event unfolded around them, and puzzling to investigators in the aftermath: How did a man with a shotgun pass through one of three gates where Marine and Navy security personnel screen all visitors?
"I don't think we know that," said Valerie Parlave, the assistant FBI director in charge of the D.C. field office. "The investigation is still very active."
Several former military officers who work in the building said that there are armed guards at the main entrance and that employees must scan an access card. But two people who work there said those with properly coded cards can enter through a side door from a garage, bypassing the security guards.
Alexis had been working much of this year as a computer contractor for a company called the Experts and appeared to have a government-contractor access card that would have allowed him into the Navy Yard and other military installations, according to company chief executive Thomas Hoshko.
Alexis had a security clearance that was updated in July, approved by military security service personnel. "There had to be a thorough investigation," Hoshko said. "There is nothing that came up in all the searches."
Name: Aaron Alexis.
Age: 34 (born May 9, 1979).
Hometown: New York City.
Last residence: Fort Worth, Texas.
Occupation: Worked for the Experts, a subcontractor refreshing equipment for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. Navy reservist from 2007-2011. After discharge, worked as a waiter and delivery driver in White Settlement, Texas, until May 2013.
Education: Was pursuing a bachelor's degree in aeronautics via online classes at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Religion: Converted to Buddhism, according to friends.
Police in Washington have released the names of seven of the 12 victims killed in Monday's shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard.
Michael Arnold, 59
Sylvia Frasier, 53
Kathy Gaarde, 62
John Roger Johnson, 73
Frank Kohler, 50
Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Vishnu Pandit, 61