A former US Navy reservist who fatally shot 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been arrested twice previously for gun-related incidents and was traumatised by the 9/11 attacks, it today emerged.
Two federal law enforcement officials say Aaron Alexis had an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun that he took from a police officer at the scene.
The 34-year-old Alexis died yesterday after a running gun-battle inside the building with police. The FBI says Alexis used a valid pass to get on to the Washington base.
Washington DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier said they believe a lone gunman was responsible for the shooting rampage. The authorities had earlier said they were searching for a possible second suspect.
Mayor Vincent Gray says the 12 shooting victims range in age from 46 to 73 years old, and they are still notifying the families of about half of the people who were killed.
The deadly rampage by Alexis saw him spray bullets in the hallways and fire from a balcony on workers in an atrium below.
Preident Barack Obama lamented ‘yet another mass shooting’ in the US that he said took the lives of American ‘patriots’ and promised to make sure ‘whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible’.
The attack was the deadliest shooting at a US-based military installation since Major Nidal Hissan, an Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
The motive for yesterday’s attack was a mystery, investigators said. Mr Gray said there was no indication it was a terrorist attack, but he added that the possibility had not been ruled out.
The attack at a single building at the highly secured Navy Yard unfolded about 8.20am local time in the heart of the US capital, less than four miles from the White House.
Alexis, an information technology employee and former Navy reservist whose last known address was in Fort Worth, Texas, died after a running gun-battle inside the building with police, investigators said.
For much of the day, authorities said they were looking for a possible second attacker who may have been disguised in a military-style uniform. But today they said they were convinced the attack was the work of a lone gunman, and the security lockdown was eased.
In addition to those killed, eight people were hurt – three of them shot, according to the mayor. A number of the dead were civilian employees and contractors, rather than active-duty military personnel, the police chief said.