Friends of Aaron Alexis, the 34-year old accused gunman in the Washington Navy Yard shooting, described him as an extremely courteous man who meditated regularly at a local Buddhist temple. Police reports, however, show that he was arrested several times, once prior to enlisting in the Navy and again during his service. Reports suggest that he had a history of anger management problems or possibly mental health issues.
According to the Star-Telegram, the Fort Worth man who allegedly shot 12 people dead and injured eight others on Monday had two prior arrests involving firearms, one in Seattle in 2004 and, more recently, in a Fort Worth apartment. After the second incident a neighbor told police she was “terrified” of him. Neither arrest led to a prosecution.
Alexis was arrested in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a vehicle used by two construction workers. From the police report:
During post-Miranda questioning Alexis confessed to the crime of discharging his weapon for the purpose of shooting out the tires on the car owned by [redacted] Alexis also stated that he perceived the victim had mocked him earlier that morning after he discovered his own vehicle had been tampered with…
The officer who completed the report wrote:
I obtained a post-Miranda confession from Alexis. He explained how he perceived [redacted] had disrespected him and how that perception lead to what Alexis described as a “black-out” fueled by anger. He said that he didn’t remember pulling the trigger of his firearm until about one-hour later. Alexis also told me how he was present during the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 and how those events had disturbed him. Alexis was then booked for Malicious Mischief.
The Star-Telegram indicates that in May of 2007 Alexis enlisted in the Navy and reported for duty at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, which is the Navy boot camp. He underwent professional training from July through September of that year.
In January of 2008, Alexis reportedly began work for the Commander, Fleet Logistics Support Wing, based at Naval Air Station Fort Worth. The report states that it is not clear when Alexis’ status was changed from active to reservist.
In February of 2008, Alexis was assigned to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46. The following August, he was arrested in DeKalb County, Georgia for disorderly conduct, though there is little information about this arrest according to Police Chief Cedric Alexander from the DeKalb County police department.
The Washington Times reports that Alexander said Alexis had “a pattern of anger, a pattern of being alone, a pattern of violence that has occurred across the country over the past number of years…”
While at the Naval Air Station in December of 2009, Alexis attained the rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class.
In September of 2010, Alexis was arrested again for discharging his firearm within a municipality. A neighbor told police that a shot had been fired through the floor of her apartment. Subsequently, the apartment complex started eviction proceedings.
From the police report:
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. He told me that he began to take the gun apart when his hands slipped and pulled the trigger discharging a round into the ceiling. He said he was sitting on the floor facing toward the large couch in his living room. 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. I then asked why he wouldn’t answer the door when I knocked and he said that he thought it was just his upstairs neighbor and he didn’t want to talk to her because she is always making noise. While inside the apt I looked at the gun which was taken apart at this time. A gun cleaning kit was located next to the gun and the gun was covered in oil.
In January of 2011, Alexis left the Navy with an honorable discharge. He got a job as a waiter at the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in White Settlement, Texas.
Sandy Guerra-Cline, copy editor from the Star-Telegram who ate at the restaurant, described Alexis as a “sweet and intelligent guy” who said that he had “moved to Fort Worth with the military and kind of decided to stay on.” The editor said that Alexis never talked about guns or violence, and that she recalled seeing him sitting at a table in the restaurant trying to teach himself Thai. She reported that he had traveled to Thailand less than a year ago.
Guerra-Cline indicated that Alexis was much loved by the restaurant owner’s family members, who were stunned to learn of the shootings in Washington D.C.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Alexis, who was killed at the scene of the shootings, had been suffering a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He had also allegedly been hearing voices in his head, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still ongoing.
Alexis had reportedly been treated since August by Veterans Affairs for his mental issues, the officials said.
Auditory hallucinations and episodes of paranoia are often associated with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, and can be brought on as well by drug or alcohol overdose.
The Star-Telegram reported that a former electrician’s mate in the Navy, a friend of Alexis, said that the alleged shooter was upset with the government because of a dispute over VA benefits.
According to CBS News special correspondent and former FBI assistant director John Miller, “There were mental issues that he sought help for from the VA a number of times. He was… acting normally during work and then having these episodes for which he was trying to get treatment.”
“He said he was hearing voices, he was detached from reality at certain points. He had sought treatment a number of times at a number of places and he was also frustrated there. He claimed he wasn’t getting his full VA benefits,” Miller added.