Mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard leaves 13 dead

September 17th, 2013

To many, it seemed like it would be an ordinary Monday.  People commuted to work ready to start another week.  At the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., employees shared the same feeling.  But by the end of the day, 13 people were gunned down and several more wounded.

The suspect has been identified as Aaron Alexis, age 34, of Fort Worth, Texas. Alexis was a military contractor who had been working at the Navy Yard at the time of the shooting.  His spree ended after he was shot dead by authorities.

The shooting spree began at approximately 8:20 a.m. On Monday witnesses reported that the first shots were fired in the Southeastern portion of the Navy Yard. Intense panic ensued almost immediately among people in the building. Eyewitness reports were of people running, pushing and shoving, trying to figure which was the fastest and safest way to get out, according to CNN.  The suspect was said to have pointed the gun at several people before firing, but seemed to have been targeting certain people rather than simply shooting at random.

In addition to the 13 people (including the shooter) who were killed, more people were taken to the hospital due to injuries.  Among the wounded included a Washington police officer, according to NBC News.

News of the shooting broke very quickly.  District of Columbia police were first alerted about the shooting when they received a call from the Navy Yard.  Soon, helicopters and SWAT teams descended on the property. According to CNN, one helicopter appeared to have a police sniper aimed at the building, thus emphasizing the sheer gravity of the situation.  Teams soon moved in to help escort people out of the building and take them to safety.

The reaction to the incident was not isolated to the Navy Yard. Throughout the Washington area, authorities established precautions. At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Va., air traffic was on suspension for a couple of hours until cleared by security.  Likewise, other places in the area took action.  The Washington Nationals canceled their game, while a number of schools in the area released students and closed for the day. Congress was briefly put on lock down and security was also increased at the Pentagon as a result of the shooting.

Washington Police spokesman Chris Kelly first identified the suspect as a 6 foot 1 inch black male.  Mayor Vincent Gray, who also indicated that there might be another suspect possibly still on the loose, soon confirmed these reports.

“We’ll continue to seek information about what the motive is. We don’t have any reason at this stage to suspect terrorism,” he said, “but certainly it has not been ruled out.”

President Barack Obama also had several words to say about the shooting.  When first informed, he stated that the shooting was a “cowardly act,” as reported by the New York Times.

Referring to the victims, Obama also stated, “They know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that we wouldn’t have expected here at home.”

In the wake of this tragedy, there are several questions that will be asked.  One is in regards to how the shooter was able to get into the building using a laid-off workers ID, along with the exact motives for the shooting spree.

According to CNN,  Alexis was a former Navy sailor who apparently was known to have frequent outbursts or, as some called, “pattern of misconduct.” He was given an honorable discharge in January 2011 following these problems.

Friends of Alexis also claimed that he had been agitated several times over pay he received from previous contracting jobs. Furthermore, a Newport, R.I. Police report revealed Tuesday provided more information on the suspect, according to NBC News. The report stated that Alexis told police that someone “had sent three people to follow him and to talk, keep him awake and send vibrations into his body.” He further complained that these voices came through the walls of his hotel room and through a microwave. Authorities are continuing to see if this was a catalyst for the shooting.

At the same time, there is another investigation being carried out to determine how Alexis got into the building without proper identification. For now, the questions will continue to occupy the attention of many.

Information from The New York Times, CNN and NBC News was used in this report.