Confusion, Panic In Washington After Navy Yard Shooting

At least one gunman opened fire on people at a building in the Washington Naval Yard. Police say several people are dead and several wounded.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Confusion and panic in Washington, D.C., today, after a mass shooting at a federal complex known as the Navy Yard. Officials say 13 people are dead, including the gunman. Police also say they can't yet rule out another possible suspect who may have been involved in the shooting.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden was at the scene earlier, and she joins me now in the studio. And Jennifer, what do we know, at this point, about what happened this morning?

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Well, Robert, calls started coming in at about 8:20 in the morning that there was someone shooting inside the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters. This is a place where they engineer, build and maintains ships and submarines for the Navy; 3,000 people work there. They were put on lockdown.

Outside, it was chaos. Streets were closed off, lots of emergency vehicles, lots of agencies called to the scene. NPR producer Sami Yenigun and I spoke with some people who at the Navy Yard at the time, and some family members who converged on the area, trying to connect with their loved ones inside. Let's listen.

PATRICIA WARD: It was like pow, pow, pow. And in a few seconds, it stopped and then it - pow, pow, pow, pow. So we just ran.

TIM GIRAZ: We were just standing here - maybe 3 feet away - having a conversation, and then we heard two more gunshots; and he went down, and that's when I ran.

MEGAN FLETCHER: It was the worst morning imaginable. I just want to find him safely now and give him a hug, and tell him I love him and take him home.

LUDDEN: That was Megan Fletcher(ph), who at the time was still waiting for her husband, who was still in the building. We also heard from Patricia Ward. She's a logistics management specialist at the Navy Yard. And she was followed by Tim Giraz(ph); he's one of the victims that was shot - who saw one of the victims that was shot.

SIEGEL: And Jennifer, we now know the identity of the gunman. Who was he?

LUDDEN: Aaron Alexis, we're told; a 34-year-old, former Navy reservist and civilian contractor. Pentagon officials say he served from 2007 to 2011, and was given a general discharge for misconduct issues. Now, they've recovered three weapons at the site - a rifle, a shotgun and a semiautomatic handgun. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says Alexis was moving through the building and was finally killed during an engagement with police; one officer was injured. She says there is no question Alexis would have just kept shooting had he not been killed.

Now, officials say they don't have any motive, but they can't rule out terrorism. This is - obviously - a very secure compound, so the question is raised - how did Alexis gain entry? We've been told that he used the I.D. of someone else, an African-American man around age 50, who was recently dismissed from his job at the complex. We understand this is a man of interest, who is now being questioned by law enforcement.

SIEGEL: Yeah. There's been confusion throughout the day over the number of suspects. The latest thinking, on the part of the police?

LUDDEN: Well, after telling us they were looking for possibly two more people, they ruled out one of them midafternoon, but now still say they can't rule out the other person. And again, this is a person described as black, and a man, around age 50.

SIEGEL: Now, this shooting, these events today, have been very, very disruptive to Washington, D.C. This is all happening not too far from Capitol Hill.

LUDDEN: And the Senate briefly had a bit of a lockdown there. Outgoing planes at Reagan National Airport were temporarily grounded. Some highways were shut, although reopened for rush hour. Some D.C. public schools were locked down, let out early - a lot of panicked parents. And the Washington Nationals were supposed to play tonight. That's been put off. Family members of those in the Navy Yard complex have actually been gathering at National Stadium, to get word on their loved ones.

SIEGEL: And again, the news here: At least 13 people confirmed dead, including the gunman. And what can you tell us about the wounded?

LUDDEN: Three wounded remain at Washington Hospital Center. We are told none of them have life-threatening wounds. Mayor Vincent Gray also says there are others who were hurt but not shot.

SIEGEL: Thank you. That's NPR's Jennifer Ludden.

LUDDEN: Thank you.

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