Navy Yard shooter reported hearing voices 6 weeks before spree, police say
Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter, reported hearing voices in the weeks before the rampage, and said that three people were sending vibrations through the ceiling to keep him from sleeping, police said Tuesday.
Police in Newport, R.I., said that Alexis called them to a Marriott hotel there on the morning of Aug. 7 and reported that he was being followed and was worried that the people were going to hurt him.
Alexis told police that the three talked to him through the walls, floor or ceiling at three hotels — two commercial hotels in Rhode Island and one on a naval base there. He told them that they used a microwave machine to send vibrations and keep him awake.
One day after the rampage, which left 12 people dead at the Navy Yard before officers gunned down Alexis, the FBI said that it was still looking for a motive. An FBI official would not answer a reporter’s question about whether Alexis was simply mentally ill, with no deeper motive.
Federal law enforcement officials sketched an early account of the spree to NBC News. They said that Alexis left a Residence Inn in Washington on Monday morning, drove a rental car to the Navy Yard and used his credentials to enter the base.
Military officials said that Alexis, 34, a former Navy reservist who was working as a civilian contractor, had a security card that allowed him access to the Navy Yard but not to the office building where he later opened fire.
Once on the base, the law enforcement officials said, Alexis apparently entered a men’s room and readied a Remington pump-action shotgun. They said he walked out, shot a police officer and a security guard and took their handguns before continuing his rampage.
Inside the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, on the fourth floor, Alexis sprayed bullets into a breakfast crowd in an atrium below, at others on a third-floor balcony and at at least one man in a fourth-floor corridor, according to authorities and eyewitness accounts.
A senior investigator told NBC News that authorities believed Alexis he used the handguns, which were semi-automatics, after emptying the Remington into his victims. Evidence technicians were still canvassing the crime scene late Tuesday and had not finished counting the rounds and buckshot pellets.
Valerie Parlave, the assistant director in charge of the Washington FBI field office, said that agents did not believe Alexis used an AR-15 military-style assault rifle. Some law enforcement officials had said Monday that investigators believed he used such a weapon.
Alexis was killed after exchanging gunfire repeatedly with officers who swarmed the Sea Systems Command as part of a massive law enforcement response.
Alexis appears to have had a history of psychological problems and was deteriorating, and military officials said he had a disciplinary record that included insubordination and disorderly conduct.
Further in his past, Alexis was accused three years ago of accidentally firing a bullet into an upstairs apartment, and nine years ago of shooting the tires of another person’s car during an anger-fueled blackout in Seattle, where he had family. At that time, his father told detectives that Alexis helped with rescues after the Sept. 11 attacks and suffered post-traumatic stress.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus plans to order two reviews to examine security procedures at all Navy and Marine Corps installations, a senior defense official told NBC News.
The first will be a “quick look” at physical security requirements of bases, the official said. The second will be a deeper look at both the physical and personal security requirement.
The personal requirements include whether someone is likely to protect classified information and adhere to standard security procedures. The physical review is a deeper look at physical security requirements on a base: swipe access, perimeter security, patrols, etc.
The official could not provide a timeline for the reviews.
Authorities say that Alexis is believed to be the only person responsible for the rampage. For a time Monday, Washington police said they were looking for as many as two people who were possible accomplices.
Alexis was working for a subcontractor for Hewlett-Packard Enterprises called The Experts, which does work in the Navy Yard complex. A spokesman for the company said Tuesday that Alexis had passed two background checks, most recently in June, and that the company confirmed twice through the Defense Department that Alexis had security clearance.
The June background check found no problems beyond a traffic violation, the spokesman said.
Alexis joined the Navy reserves in May 2007 and was discharged in January 2011. The discharge was honorable and was granted early in what is known as an enlisted transition.
Military officials acknowledged, however, that Alexis had disciplinary problems including absence without permission, insubordination and disorderly conduct.
The officials said that often in cases like this the individual is offered early voluntary discharge instead of dishonorable discharge or a general discharge, which is one step below honorable. The officials could not say that that was the case with Alexis.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid a wreath Tuesday at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, and a bugler played taps. Washington police released the names of the dead as their families were notified. Authorities said none of the victims was known to have been active-duty military personnel.
The spree was the deadliest U.S. shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last December, the deadliest on a U.S. military installation since 13 people were killed at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
It was also the single deadliest incident in Washington since Sept. 11, 2001.