A Snapshot of a Mass Shooter: What We (Think We) Know About Aaron Alexis

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 17 2013 6:30 PM

An Emerging Snapshot of a Mass Shooter: What We (Think We) Know About Aaron Alexis

Alexis

The FBI has identified the alleged gunman who opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Army reservist who was born in Queens, N.Y. Federal officials released photos of the suspect Monday evening, asking the public with any information about him to contact the FBI's D.C. field office at (202) 278-2000 or 1-800-CALL-FBI.

The morning after the shooting, law enforcement and media outlets continue to piece together a portrait of the gunman, who took at least 12 lives on Monday before being killed reportedly while exchanging gunfire with police.

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Below is an updated sampling of the details that began to emerge Monday evening and throughout the day on Tuesday. Given this continues to be a developing situation, it's important to treat the unconfirmed details about Alexis with a healthy degree of skepticism, and to pay attention to the sourcing, some of which is obviously much stronger than others.

Mental Health Issues (source: Police report via New York Times)

Only a month ago…[Alexis] was suffering from hallucinations so severe that he called the Newport Police Department in Rhode Island where he told officers he was on business.
When officers came to his hotel room on Aug. 7 at 6 a.m., Mr. Alexis told them that he had gotten into an argument with someone at an airport in Virginia. He said the person he had argued with “had sent three people to follow him and to keep him awake by talking to him and sending vibrations to his body” via a microwave machine, according to a police report.

Alexis Spent Nearly Four Years as a Navy Reservist (source: Military records, via New York Times):

According to the Navy, Mr. Alexis enlisted as a full-time reservist in May 2007 and left the service in January 2011. He served as an aviation electrician, and the highest rank he achieved was mate third class. From February 2008 to January 2011, he was assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46, in Fort Worth. The Navy said Mr. Alexis had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Alexis' Checkered Naval Career (source: Navy offiicial, via Washington Post)

Alexis was cited at least eight times for misconduct for offenses as minor as a traffic ticket and showing up late for work but also as serious as insubordination and disorderly conduct, said a Navy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the gunman’s personnel record.
...[Alexis] did not face court martial for any of the offenses, which included an insubordination charge in 2008, a disorderly conduct charge in 2009 and extended unauthorized absences from work on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2010. He did receive administrative punishments three times.

Honorable Discharge from Navy (source: Navy officials, via New York Times)

"Navy officials said the gunman was given an honorable discharge from the military in January 2011 after he had applied for an early discharge under the Navy’s 'early enlisted transition program,' although he had exhibited a 'pattern of misbehavior,' which included insubordination and unauthorized absences. Those issues had led the Navy to consider forcing Mr. Alexis out of the service with a less than honorable discharge."

Alexis Was a Defense Contractor at Some Point (source: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, via CNN):

When asked whether Alexis was authorized to be at the Navy Yard, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said that was "part of the investigation." ... "The only thing we know was that at one point, he was a Navy contractor. Whether he was today, I don’t know,” Mabus told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Alexis Worked for a Hewlett Packard Subcontractor (source: Hewlett Packard, via Washington Post)

Alexis ... worked for a company called The Experts, a subcontractor to Hewlett Packard on a federal contract to work on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network, according to a statement from Hewlett Packard. It was unclear if Alexis was still employed by that subcontractor, or if his work took him to the Navy Yard.

Alexis Employed at The Experts (source: Thomas Hoshiko CEO The Experts, via Washington Post)

Aaron Alexis’s employer said he would not have hired the Fort Worth computer technician if he had known of some of his brushes with the law and said the military should have shared more information with them about Alexis’s history.
Alexis was working with The Experts firm on its subcontract handling computer refreshing for Navy and Marine Corps installations. The company confirmed Tuesday morning that Alexis had been working since July at six different installations – including Arlington, Va, Cherry Point, N.C., and Stafford, Va. He had worked for several days before the shooting at the Navy Yard. These were previously unknown.

Alexis Was Arrested in 2010 (source: Tarrant County District Attorney, via NBC Washington):

Tarrant County records show Alexis was arrested in Fort Worth in Sept. 2010 for discharging a firearm inside city limits – a Class A misdemeanor. At the time, he told police he accidentally discharged the weapon while cleaning it, and he was arrested. No charges were filed. 
The Tarrant County District Attorney's office released the following statement Monday regarding Alexis' arrest: "After reviewing the facts presented by the police department, it was determined that the elements constituting recklessness under Texas law were not present and a case was not filed."

Alexis Was Arrested in Georgia in 2008 (source: Washington Post)

In 2008, Alexis was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in DeKalb County, Ga. He spent two nights in jail, police said, but they had no other details.

Alexis Was Arrested in 2004 (source: Seattle Police Department):

Alexis ... was previously arrested by Seattle police in 2004 for shooting out the tires of another man’s vehicle in what Alexis later described to detectives as an anger-fueled "blackout." ... At about 8 am that morning, two construction workers had parked their 1986 Honda Accord in the driveway of their worksite, next to a home where Alexis was staying in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The victims reported seeing a man, later identified by police as Alexis, walk out of the home next to their worksite, pull a gun from his waistband and fire three shots into the two rear tires of their Honda before he walked slowly back to his home north of the construction site. ...
When detectives interviewed workers and a manager at the construction site, they told police Alexis had “stared” at construction workers at the job site every day over the last month prior to the shooting. The owner of the construction business told police he believed Alexis was angry over the parking situation around the work site. ... Police then obtained permission to search the home, found a gun and ammunition in Alexis’ room, and booked him into the King County Jail for malicious mischief.

Alexis May Have Suffered From PTSD and Claims to Have Helped in the Rescue Attempts of Sept. 11th (source: Alexis's father, via Seattle PD)

Following his arrest, Alexis told detectives he perceived he had been "mocked" by construction workers the morning of the incident and said they had “disrespected him.” Alexis also claimed he had an anger-fueled “blackout,” and could not remember firing his gun at the victims’ vehicle until an hour after the incident. Alexis also told police he was present during “the tragic events of September 11, 2001″ and described “how those events had disturbed him.”
Detectives later spoke with Alexis’ father, who lived in New York at the time, who told police Alexis had anger management problems associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that Alexis had been an active participant in rescue attempts on September 11th, 2001. Detectives referred the case to the Seattle Municipal Court for charges.

Alexis Was a Frequent Visitor at a Buddhist Temple in Texas (source: Alexis' friends and fellow temple-goers, via Washington Post):

In Fort Worth, Alexis had become a familiar, if unusual, figure at a Buddhist temple. At the Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center there, Alexis came to meditate twice a week. But he still seemed so tightly wound that at least one worker there sought to avoid him. "He would help people if they came in carrying heavy things,” said J. Sirun, an assistant to the monks at the center. “From the outside, he was a quiet person. But on the inside, I think he was very aggressive. He did not like to be close with anybody, like a soldier who has been at war.”
Alexis spoke Thai, the language of many other temple worshippers, and also worked as a waiter at a Thai restaurant. One acquaintance said Alexis had recently traveled to Thailand for a month. “He understood about 75 percent of the language,” Sirun said. “I didn’t think he could be this violent,” Sirun said. “I would not have been surprised to hear he had committed suicide. But I didn’t think he could commit murder.”

Alexis Described as Polite (source: his self-proclaimed best friend, via the Star-Telegraph): 

A 34-year-old man named Aaron Alexis who lived in west Fort Worth was described by friends as a person who was polite and liked to meditate. ...  Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of Happy Bowl Thai in White Settlement, said Alexis was “my best friend.”
“He lived with me three years,” Suthamtewakul said Monday afternoon. “I don’t think he’d do this. He has a gun but I don’t think he’s that stupid. He didn’t seem aggressive to me.”
Alexis worked at times as a waiter at Happy Bowl, customers said. They described him as friendly. Alexis had recently visited Thailand and had been to Japan with a computer defense contractor, where he worked in information technology, said Sandy Guerrea-Cline, a customer at Happy Bowl and copy editor at the Star-Telegram.

We'll continue to update as more information becomes available.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @Slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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