Washington Navy Yard Shooter's Troubled Past Investigated

New details emerge about Aaron Alexis' previous run-ins with the law and misconduct in the Navy.

Aaron Alexis. Photo credit: FBI
Aaron Alexis. Photo credit: FBI

By Mary Stachyra Lopez

Aaron Alexis, who authorities have identified as the Washington Navy Yard shooter, had a secret security clearance despite misconduct during his time in the Navy Reserves, possible mental health problems and previous run-ins with the law.

History of Misconduct

Alexis, 34, who was killed  at the Navy Yard Monday, was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2011. He had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to military records. But the New York City native also had a history of misconduct in the military—and was cited at least eight times for bad behavior including disorderly conduct, insubordination and unauthorized absences from work, The Washington Post reported, citing an anonymous Navy official.

The Navy originally sought to give Alexis a general discharge, according to several news reports, but agreed to let him have an honorable discharge through the early enlisted transition program.

Alexis entered the base legally, because he had been hired to work as a contractor at Navy Yard.

Run-ins with the Law Start in Seattle

Alexis also had run-ins with the law stretching back to 2004. On May 6 of that year, he shot out the tires of another man's vehicle in what he called an "anger-fueled blackout," according to the Seattle Police Department.

In that incident, two construction workers had parked their Honda Accord in the driveway of their worksite, which was next to a home where Alexis was staying. Alexis allegedly walked out of his home, pulled a gun from his waistband, then fired three shots into the two rear tires of the vehicle, police said.

The construction workers and a manager at the site told detectives that Alexis had "stared" at the workers every day during the previous month. The owner of the business speculated that Alexis may have been angry over parking.

Detectives tried to contact Alexis several times, and eventually arrested him outside of the home on June 3, Seattle Police said. They searched Alexis' home, and found a Glock .45 and ammunition in his room. Alexis told detectives he believed he had been "mocked" and "disrespected" by construction workers, and that he could not remember firing his gun at the vehicle.

Other Signals

Alexis also told the Seattle Police that he had been present during "the tragic events of September 11, 2001," which "disturbed" him. Alexis's father told police that his son had participated in rescue attempts and had anger management problems due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those claims have not been confirmed. 

There are also unconfirmed reports from unnamed sources in law enforcement, according to the AP, that Alexis had mental health problems, such as hearing voices, a sleep disorder and paranoia.

In 2008, Alexis spent two nights in jail in DeKalb County, Ga., on a disorderly conduct charge, but authorities had no further details on that case.

Troubles Continue in Fort Worth

While living in Fort Worth in 2010, Alexis was arrested for firing a gun into his upstairs neighbor's apartment, but charges were never filed.

The caller reported on the evening of Sept. 4 that she was sitting in a chair when she heard a 'POP' and saw smoke and dust, according to an incident report from the Fort Worth Police Department. She found a hole in her floor and the ceiling.

She told officers that Alexis had called police on her several times for being too loud. She also said that Alexis had confronted her in the parking lot about the noise, and felt that he had fired the gun intentionally.

"I made contact with Aaron who informed me that he did have a gun and he said that he was cleaning it when it went off. He said that he was trying to clean his gun while cooking and that his hands were slippery," the Fort Worth officer wrote in his report.

"When asked why he didn't call police or go check on the resident above him, Aaron said that he didn't think it went all the way through since he couldn't see any light through the hole. In regards to the noise he said he thought that people would just think it was a firecracker."

'Some Sort of Microwave Machine'

Alexis made a call to the police in Newport, Rhode Island, on Aug. 7, and said he had an argument with three people at the airport. He claimed that they were following him, said Lt. William Fitzgerald of the Newport Police.

Alexis was staying at the Marriott Hotel, located at 25 America's Cup Avenue, and complained the people were speaking to him through a wall and keeping him awake by sending vibrations into his body, according to the police report.   

He allegedly said the individuals were using "some sort of microwave machine" to send vibrations through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he could not go to sleep. 

He reportedly said he did not have a history of mental illness in his family and that he has never had any sort of psychotic episode. 

The police reports were faxed to the Navy Police. Sources said he stayed at hotels in Middletown and Newport during his stay.  

The Investigation Continues

D.C. Metropolitan Police on Monday afternoon turned the lead on the investigation to the FBI.

"The full resources of the Department of Justice will continue to be made available to support our law enforcement partners as our nation responds to this latest mass shooting,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release.

Anyone with additional details on Alexis should call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Olga Enger contributed to this report. 
Cheryl September 17, 2013 at 04:32 PM
So sad that our military and the VA doesn't properly treat our Veterans for mental health issues until it's too late. They don't really want to hear about it so they can continue sending the same warm body into battle tour after tour.
Stella Kelsey September 17, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Look at this background and he still has a security clearance................
Leslie Rosen Awe Ann September 17, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Uh like the civilian sector does a good job with mental illness. NOT>
Carl Horowitz September 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Anger management problems? Gee, you don't say!


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