Americas

Thursday 31 July 2014

Washington Massacre: Gunman had security clearance despite firearm arrest

Published 17/09/2013|10:35

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A photo of Aaron Alexis provided by Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul (AP/Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul)
A photo of Aaron Alexis provided by Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul (AP/Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul)

The contractor identified by the FBI as the shooter in the Navy Yards shooting rampage in Washington DC had clearance to the allegedly secure military area even though he had a history of solving grievances with the squeeze of a trigger and had been discharged from the US Naval Reserve, it has emerged.

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Investigators with the FBI and the US Navy are scrambling to piece together a profile of Aaron Alexis, who was shot dead by police in a stand-off that came after he opened fire in a building at the Navy Yards inside Washington DC killing 12 civilians workers on the base and plunging the capital of the United States into hours of anxiety. Another three victims were being treated for injuries.

The Mayor of Washington DC, said late Monday that there was no indication so far that the attack, the worst on a US military installation since the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, had been the work of terrorism. But he also acknowledged that no one had identified a motive for the attack. Officials he entered Building 197, the principle building in the complex, armed with three weapons, including an automatic AR-25 semi-automatic.

“We have no known motive at this stage,” Mayor Vincent Gray said. “We don’t have any reason at this stage to suspect terrorism, but certainly it has not been ruled out.” Meanwhile officials released the names of the seven of the victims, none of whom were military personnel. They said that all the families of those killed had been notified.

After several jittery hours in Washington when it was thought a second accomplice might have been on the loose which led to a lockdown of the US Senate complex and a brief halting of take-offs at nearby National Airport, the authorities said late Monday that they had determined that Alexis was the only shooter. They at that moment lifted an order for residents in the area around the Yards in southeast DC to remain off the streets and sheltered.

“We do now feel comfortable that we have the single and sole person responsible for the loss of life inside the base today,” Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. Witnesses said Alexis fired at workers as they ran down corridors trying to escape him and sprayed bullets from a balcony into a crowded atrium below, beginning at about 8.20 am when doors had opened for workers coming in for the day.

It appeared that Alexis, 34, had a clearance to enter the base, which is home to Naval Sea Systems Command , as an employer of The Experts, a company that subcontracts for Hewlett-Packard, updating and refreshing computer systems for the US military. He had seemingly only been assigned to the base in DC, which lies barely one and a half miles from the US Capitol, earlier this month. It also appeared he had bought the weapons legally in neighbouring Virginia.

Intentionally or otherwise Alexis will have given new fuel to the national gun control debate by virtue of perpetrating the horror within the very bounds of the country’s capital and within a stone’s throw of both Congress and the White House. The push for new gun controls that followed the Newtown school massacre of last December quickly petered out.

Police and firefighters respond to the report of a shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington DC

“We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital,” President Barack Obama said at an unrelated White House ceremony, adding that the victims “are men and women who were going to work, doing their job, protecting all of us. They are patriots.”

Serious questions will be asked about the vetting process that allowed Alexis to receive a credential pass for the Navy Yards. It quickly emerged that he had been charged on two previous occasions, one in Texas and one in Washington State, for discharging a firearm, going back to 2004 when he was arrested for shooting out the tyres of cars outside his home. The event stemmed from a dispute over lack of parking space by his home.

The other arrest, in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2010, reportedly arose when Alexis was accused of shooting his gun through the ceiling of his living room and into the flat of the neighbour above who he considered a mischief for making too much noise. The neighbour told police that the bullet had come through the floor barely missing her. The incident prompted his dismissal from the Naval Reserves and a request that he leave the apartment building

 

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