Massacre at the Navy Yard: Authorities try to determine what set off rampage

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In a mass shooting that sent shock waves through the nation’s capital, the FBI and police were piecing together what led a Navy civilian contractor to kill 12 employees Monday at the Washington Navy Yard and injure several others.

The slayings at the high-security headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Southeast Washington shattered the calm of a routine start to the workweek shortly after 8 a.m. Police said the gunman, identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas, gained entry to Building 197 on the sprawling military complex and then went on a deadly rampage inside the building.


PHOTOS: Chaos amid shooting rampage at Washington Navy Yard


Authorities said Alexis, a former full-time Navy reservist, had access to the installation as an employee of a contracting firm working at the facility. Alexis was fatally shot.

A law enforcement official directly briefed on the investigation said authorities believed the gunman used a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun thought to have been purchased at a gun store in Lorton, Va., a Washington suburb. Authorities were still trying to determine the origins of two others weapons — an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon and Glock handgun — found at the scene, the official said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity.

One scenario being investigated was that the shooter obtained the handgun from an officer who was wounded early in the rampage, then obtained the semiautomatic weapon inside, officials said, cautioning that the evidence analysis was still fluid late Monday night.

After the shooting started, Navy Yard employee Terrie Durham saw the gunman in a hallway as she was helping co-workers to evacuate.

“I could see his face,” Ms. Durham said. “He looked around and fired. We were lucky he was a bad shot.”

Her colleague, Todd Brundidge, said he was about 30 yards away from the gunman. He said the shooter didn’t utter a word, but just “raised the gun and started firing.”


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Navy Cmdr. Tim Jirus told reporters that a man from the Washington Navy Yard’s maintenance department was shot next to him as workers fled the building.

“He walked up and told me he heard there was a shooter in our building. We were just standing here maybe three feet away having a conversation and we heard two more gunshots and he went down. That’s when I ran,” Cmdr. Jirus told CNN. “I’m fairly certain he was dead because he was shot in the head. It’s traumatic. I don’t feel lucky he got hit instead of me but I feel lucky to be here.”

The gunman, whose motive remains a mystery, was found dead at the scene after a running gunbattle with police. Two of the wounded are law enforcement officers — D.C. officer Scott Williams and a military base officer, both of whom were expected to survive.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, lifting the “shelter in place” status of the neighborhood near the base, said late Monday that it appeared Alexis was “the single, sole person responsible.”

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said the 12 victims of the gunman ranged in age from 46 to 73. Eight others were injured in the shooting spree but it wasn’t clear whether all of them suffered gunshot wounds. Three people were being treated for gunshot wounds at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.

It was the worst shooting rampage at a U.S.-based military installation since Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas. He was sentenced to death last month.

Investigators did not rule out terrorism as a motive, but officials were characterizing the shooting as an act of violence. Mr. Gray said of speculation about terrorism that “we don’t have any reason to think that at this stage.”

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