Navy Yard Shooting Deadliest Rampage Since Fort Hood

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A defense-industry employee used his pass to get into the Washington Navy Yard and went on a deadly shooting spree on Monday. The motive for the assault is not known at this time. Thirteen people were killed — including the gunman.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Let's walk through yesterday's events at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard. Investigators often begin their reconstruction of a mass shooting with a timeline.

INSKEEP: That timeline may change as they learn more. So what follows is the best information we have available now.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Brian Naylor joins us in our studios to walk us through some of that information. And Brian, what do we know about how this all started?

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Renee, it all started at about 8:15, 8:20 or so yesterday morning, by all accounts a normal Monday morning. People were getting down to work, some had been there and while, as it's a military base. And people were gathering in a cafeteria and started hearing shots, gunshots. Now, this is a big facility, the Navy Yard, home to several different commands. Some 16,000 people, military, but civilians work there.

But the shooting was apparently confined to one building, Building 197, which houses something called the Naval Sea Systems Command, which is in charge of designing and engineering Navy ships. Authorities at the Navy Yard heard these shots, they set off fire alarms, which got many people to evacuate the buildings. One witness was Terry Durham(ph), a civilian with the Sea Systems Command. She spoke with Washington TV station WJLA.

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TERRY DURHAM: We were just working at our desks and the fire alarm went off, which, you know, occasionally there is a practice or there's a fire in the building. But our fire wardens came running very quickly, yelling for everyone to get out of the building now. And that's when we started moving.

NAYLOR: And she said as they were leaving the building she saw a man with a gun.

DURHAM: He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face, but we could see him with the rifle and he raised and aimed at us and fired and he hit high on the wall, just as we were trying to leave.

NAYLOR: Now, yesterday afternoon, law enforcement identified the gunman as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist who worked for a civilian contractor with the Navy.

INSKEEP: And now we're getting into this period where there was some confusion about what exactly was going on, Brian Naylor, starting with how this guy was armed.

NAYLOR: That's right. Police say that he was armed with a shotgun. There are also reports that he carried an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon, as well as a handgun. It's not clear how he got any of those weapons onto the base with him yesterday.

MONTAGNE: And also, Brian, early on our correspondent, Carrie Johnson, told us to be cautious about reports of more than one shooter. But some officials went well into the afternoon saying there might be additional shooters. Why did that happen?

NAYLOR: Well, I think there was a lot of confusion, obviously, when the shooting took place. This is a military base; there are a lot of people in uniform with weapons. There were apparently videos that the police were looking at, including one in which they saw a man in khakis running around with a weapon. There was another report of a man wearing olive drab. These were people seen in surveillance camera tapes. But last night Metropolitan Police Chief Kathy Lanier ruled out other suspects.

CATHY LANIER: We do now feel comfortable that we have the single and sole person responsible for the loss of life.

NAYLOR: And last night the order to shelter in place was lifted. And the streets that had been closed around the Navy Yard were reopening this morning.

INSKEEP: Okay, the single and sole person responsible identified now as Aaran Alexis. What happens next in the investigation, Brian Naylor?

NAYLOR: They're still trying to piece together just exactly what happened and how it happened. Aaron Alexis apparently did have a valid security badge. But how did he get onto the base, you know, with weapons? We don't know his motives, although yesterday authorities said they did not believe this was an act of terrorism.

The FBI is leading the investigation. Assistant Director Valerie Parlave spoke to reporters last night.

VALERIE PARLAVE: The FBI's evidence response teams continue to process the shooting scenes. These teams have special capabilities to include bullet trajectory analysis and crime scene mapping. We also continue to follow every lead related to the shootings to include piecing together the movement and activities of Aaron Alexis.

INSKEEP: And we've learned a little bit about this, Brian Naylor, that he'd had a couple of past firearms incidents with police, that he was described as someone with an anger management problem. But not much more about his motives. What are the questions that authorities are trying to answer now?

NAYLOR: Well, and I think they want to find out what he has been doing these past several days or weeks that he's been in the Washington area. He apparently bought his shotgun in a Virginia gun shop, so he's been here for a while. We know he works for a government contractor. It's not clear if he has been on the base previously. And just kind of piecing together his life, they're asking for people who know him, who may have seen him in recent days, to report to the FBI, just to get a better sense of who he is. As you say, he had apparently some anger management problems. He's lived around the country in different places. And so the FBI is just trying to, you know, get a better sense of who this guy is and what he's been doing.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much, Brian.

NAYLOR: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Brian Naylor, who was at the Washington Navy Yard yesterday in the aftermath of the shooting.

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