Twelve dead as gunman goes on rampage in Washington DC
Thirteen people have been shot dead and several others have been injured in Washington DC after at least one gunman went on a shooting rampage at a US Naval installation situated less than three miles from the White House.
The shot gunman was named as Aaron Alexis (34), from Texas. Police confirmed he was a full-time Navy reservist; based in Texas until he left the service in 2011.
Yesterday's shooting at the US Navy Yard, a sprawling 65-acre facility on the banks of the Anacostia river, began at 8.20am local time, causing chaos in the US capital as thousands of police and military personnel were dispatched to the facility that is a major command centre for the US Navy.
Last night, a police and FBI investigation was under way as police announced that at least one gunman was among the 13 dead, but five hours after the incident began, police were still tracking reports of one other "potential" gunman in the site that has hundreds of rooms. Investigators were searching for an individual wearing an olive-green, military-style uniform to determine if he was involved.
Although the motive remained obscure and terrorism had not been ruled out, officials said that Alexis had been identified as a US navy employee whose work status had been changed earlier this year. According to NBC News, Alexis from Fort Worth, Texas, had recently worked as a civilian contractor at the base.
Barack Obama, speaking earlier in the White House, described the shooting as "cowardly" but did not indicate any information to suggest the attack was a terrorist incident.
"We are confronting yet another mass shooting. And today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital. It's a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel," he said, promising to do "everything in our power" to hold those responsible to account.
The shooting came nine months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which 20 children and six members of the school staff were killed, and four years after the Fort Hood shooting in which 13 US army personnel were fatally shot by a military psychiatrist.
At the heat of yesterday's attack, workers in Washington were advised to stay indoors, and the US Senate, which is less than two miles from the Navy Yard, announced it would be locked down "out of an abundance of caution" for the safety of staff and legislators. One of the capital's two airports – Reagan National Airport – also had a temporary no-fly order imposed.
The building that was targeted was the military's headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, which buys, builds and maintains ships, submarines and combat systems.
About 3,000 people work at the headquarters, many of them civilians.
At least one police officer who confronted the gunman was confirmed dead last night, with another listed as being in a "critical condition" among those who were evacuated by helicopter from the rooftops.
Cathy Lanier, the police chief for the District of Columbia, said the response of police officers had been "nothing short of heroic"."I think the actions by the police officers without question helped to reduce the number of lives lost.
"So our hearts go out to the families, certainly of all the victims here, but our gratitude to the front-line officers who ran into danger," she said.
Eye-witnesses told how they had fled to safety as bullets struck the ceiling and the walls around them.
"There was a tall black guy who stepped around the corner maybe 20 yards from us with a gun in his hand. He pointed the gun our way and started shooting," said Todd Brundidge, an executive assistant at Navy Sea Systems Command. "I'm just lucky to be here." (© Daily Telegraph, London)