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D.C. shooter background comes to light

September 25th, 2013

Just days after military contractor Aaron Alexis shot and killed 12 civilians in a Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, new details are emerging pertaining to his state of mind.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that Alexis, 34, was being treated for insomnia and was prescribed the antidepressant Trazodone, a drug also used to treat schizophrenia. That was on Aug. 23 by a VA hospital in Providence, R.I. Just five days later, he went to another Veterans’ Affairs hospital in Washington to refill the medication. Both times he was referred to primary care physicians but failed to show up for the appointments, as indicated by The Washington Post.

Apart from this, it is being reported that Alexis had been experiencing mental health issues in the months prior to his attack. NBC News reports that he called the Newport, R.I. police Aug. 7 and said that he “was being followed and was worried the people were going to hurt him.”

Additionally, he reported hearing voices in his hotel room during this time and said that three people used microwaves to “[send] vibrations through the ceiling to keep him from sleeping.”

Along with his mental health problems, Alexis was arrested two times prior to his attack. In May 2004, he used a Glock .45 “to shoot out the tires of a construction vehicle parked outside in an anger-fueled black out,” according to a Seattle Police Department report. Although he was arrested, the charges were later dropped. In September 2010, he accidentally fired his gun into the ceiling of his Texas apartment when he was cleaning it; charges were never filed.

Two days before the attack in Washington, Alexis visited a gun store in Virginia and test-fired a semi-automatic rifle and asked about buying a handgun. However, he was unable to purchase either firearm because federal law prohibits gun dealers from selling handguns to out-of-state-residents. Instead, he purchased the shotgun later used in the shooting, along with two boxes of shells, all of which can be legally purchased in Virginia by residents of any state. Despite previous mental health issues and arrests, he passed all state and federal background checks.

In addition to obtaining a gun, he was allowed a government identification badge and security clearance to enter the Navy Yard.

“Obviously, there were a lot of red flags,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week. Moreover, he said he wonders why they went unnoticed.

“Where there are gaps, we will close them. Where there are failures, we will correct them,” Hagel said.

Alexis was killed by police during his attack. Investigations are currently underway in order to try to understand his motive behind the incident.

Information from NBC News and The Washington Post was used in this report.