Navy Yard shooter was defense contractor; 13 killed in rampage

  • Article by: ERIC TUCKER , Associated Press
  • Updated: September 16, 2013 - 7:29 PM

WASHINGTON — A former Navy man opened fire Monday morning inside a building at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard, spraying bullets at office workers in the cafeteria and the halls, authorities said. Thirteen people were killed, including the gunman.

Authorities said they were looking for a possible second attacker who may have been disguised in an olive-drab military-style uniform.

But as the day wore on and night fell, the rampage increasingly appeared to be the work of a lone gunman, and Navy Yard employees were being released from the complex and children were let out of their locked-down schools.

Investigators said they had not established a motive for the rampage, which unfolded about 8:20 a.m. in the heart of the nation's capital, less than four miles from the White House and two miles from the Capitol.

As for whether it may have been a terrorist attack, Mayor Vincent Gray said: "We don't have any reason to think that at this stage." But he said the possibility had not been ruled out.

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. He was convicted last month and sentenced to death.

President Barack Obama lamented yet another mass shooting in the U.S. that he said took the lives of American patriots. He promised to make sure "whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible."

The FBI took charge of the investigation and identified the gunman killed in the attack as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas. He died after a running gunbattle with police, investigators said.

A federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said Alexis was believed to have gotten into the Navy Yard by using someone else's identification card. But Navy officials said it was not yet clear how he got onto the base.

Alexis was a full-time reservist from 2007 to early 2011, leaving as a petty officer third class, the Navy said. It did not say why he left. He had been working for a fleet logistics support squadron in Fort Worth, Texas. The Navy listed his home of record as New York City.

At the time of the rampage, he was working as a Defense Department contractor, but it was not clear if the information technology worker was assigned at the Naval Yard, according to two defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

He was also pursuing a bachelor's degree in aeronautics online with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the school said. He started classes in July 2012.

In addition to those killed, more than a dozen people were hurt, including a police officer and two female civilians who were shot and wounded. They were all expected to survive.

The Washington Navy Yard is a sprawling labyrinth of buildings and streets protected by armed guards and metal detectors, and employees have to show their IDs at doors and gates to come and go. About 20,000 people work there.

The rampage took place at Building 197, the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, which buys, builds and maintains ships, submarines and combat systems. About 3,000 people work at headquarters, many of them civilians.

Witnesses described a gunman opening fire from a fourth-floor overlook, aiming down on people in the cafeteria on the main floor. Others said a gunman fired at them in a third-floor hallway.

Patricia Ward, a logistics-management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria getting breakfast.

"It was three gunshots straight in a row — pop, pop, pop. Three seconds later, it was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, so it was like about a total of seven gunshots, and we just started running," Ward said.

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