Slain suspect had gotten a 'general discharge' after gunfire incident

  • Article by: Theresa Vargas, Stever Hendrix and Marc Fisher
  • Washington Post
  • September 16, 2013 - 9:17 PM


– Aaron Alexis lived for a time in a bungalow in the woods near a Buddhist temple in Fort Worth, Texas, where he occasionally joined Thai immigrants in meditation. He died Monday in a gun battle with police in a building at the Washington Navy Yard after he killed at least 12 people.

In between, the man named as the shooter in Monday’s mass murder at Navy Yard Building 197 was discharged from the Navy Reserve, arrested for shooting a bullet into his downstairs neighbor’s apartment and then asked to leave his Fort Worth apartment.

A Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Alexis was discharged in January 2011 for “a pattern of misconduct” and that the 2010 gun incident in Texas played a role in his departure.

Another Navy official said Alexis was given a “general discharge,” a classification often used to designate a blemished record of performance. In some cases, a general discharge can make it difficult to land a civilian job.

Alexis, 34, arrived in Washington about four months ago, friends said. He had worked recently for a defense contractor called The Experts, which is a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract to work on the Navy Marine Corps’ Intranet network, according to Hewlett-Packard spokesman Michael Thacker. Officials at The Experts did not immediately reply to phone messages. It was unclear whether Alexis was still employed by that subcontractor, or whether his work had brought him to the Navy Yard.

Investigators Monday night were examining how Alexis got into the Navy Yard, and whether he had or used the identification card of a former Navy petty officer that was found near Alexis’ body.

Those who knew Alexis in recent years describe him as a “sweet and intelligent guy” (a regular customer at the Thai restaurant where he worked as a waiter), as “a good boy” (his landlord), but also as someone who was “very aggressive,” someone who seemed like he might one day kill himself (a lay worker at the temple where Alexis worshiped).

In 2004, Alexis was arrested in Seattle after he fired three shots from a pistol into the tires of a car that two construction workers had parked in a driveway adjacent to Alexis’ house. Alexis’ father told Seattle detectives then that his son “had experienced anger-management problems that the family believed was associated with PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the police report. The father said that Alexis “was an active participant in rescue attempts of Sept. 11, 2001.”

Alexis’s own explanation for his behavior that day: the construction workers had “mocked” and “disrespected” him and then he had had “a blackout fueled by anger.”

Alexis was not charged in the Seattle incident.

More recently, Alexis struck those who crossed his path as a man of sharp contrasts. He studied the Thai language, visited Thailand for a month, was studying for an online degree in aeronautical engineering and seemed to enjoy conversing with customers, according to friends, customers and fellow worshipers. But some of those same people said that Alexis had an aggressive streak, one that caused them to keep their distance and avoid personal questions.

“We haven’t seen him for years,” an aunt, Helen Weeks, said. “I know he was in the military. He served abroad. I think he was doing some kind of computer work.”

Alexis spent nearly four years in the Navy as a full-time reservist from May 2007 until he was discharged in January 2011, according to records released by the Navy. A Navy official said Alexis was discharged for “misconduct,” and that the 2010 firearms incident in Texas played a role in his departure.

He achieved his final rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class in December 2009 and spent the bulk of his service time assigned to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 at Naval Air Station Fort Worth, records show. He was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal — two awards of minor distinction.

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