By C.N. Staff Writer
The Washington Navy Yard became the latest target of violent gun crime in America. On Monday September 16, 2013, a gunman-opened fire on the highly secured campus, killing 12 people before being gunned down and killed by police forces. As Capitol police flooded the scene, security around the Capitol and White House, along with other federal buildings was immediately stepped up and flights at Regan National Airport were temporarily grounded.
As news surrounding the shooting began to evolve, police officials wondered if there were multiple shooters involved. By the end of the day the American public learned it was lone shooter Aaron Alexis, 34, a troubled man with a history of mental unsteadiness. Alexis is a former Navy reservist who had been working as a contractor on the site and whom officials say drove a rental car to the base and entered using his access as a contractor and shot an officer and one other person outside Building 197, the Sea Systems Command headquarters.
Officials said they were still searching for a motive as they asked the public for help by posting pictures of Mr. Alexis on the F.B.I. Web site. The agency is treating the shooting as a criminal investigation, not one related to terrorism. The shooting occurred in Building 197 where authorities believe Alexis came out of the bathroom and immediately began shooting at random, FBI Director James Comey said. Investigators believe he then went floor to floor shooting at workers and witnesses had previously said it appeared Alexis shot mostly from the building’s atrium. According to law enforcement officials, he shot a guard on the first floor and took his handgun. It took more than 30 minutes for police to hunt down and kill Alexis, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said.
Navy officials said late Monday that Mr. Alexis had worked as a contractor in information technology. A spokesman for Hewlett-Packard said Mr. Alexis had been an employee of a company called The Experts, a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract. Alexis, 34, was discharged from the Navy in January 2011 after “a pattern of misconduct,” said a Navy official.
Around the city as officials began looking for other suspected gunman, the White House and the Capitol were put on high alert. The Washington Nationals baseball game was cancelled, located 4 blocks from the Navy Yard building, due to the incident. Later that afternoon someone threw firecrackers over the fence at the White House, causing loud bangs and a heavy Secret Service response.
As the day grew, speculations about the entry of Alexis pondered. A large wall protects the Navy Yard, but someone with security access could have driven into the parking lot without having their car inspected. Alexis used his valid military contractor license to enter the base.
President Obama made a statement during pre-scheduled press conference about the shooting. He said, “Once more we ask why?” The following Sunday a memorial service was held at the Washington Marine Barracks for the 12 deceased victims and others who were wounded during the attack. “I fear there’s a creeping resignation that this is somehow the new normal,” Obama said. “It ought to obsess us, it ought to lead to some sort of transformation.” The President and Fist Lady also visited with the families of the victims who range in age from 46 to 73.
Obama said “these mass shootings occur against a backdrop of daily shootings,” come “about because of decisions we make or fail to make.” He said gun murders in the United States are 10 times more prevalent than they are in other developed nations.