Developing Story: Mass Shooting at Washington's Navy Yard

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 16 2013 10:02 PM

(Still) Developing Story: Mass Shooting at Washington's Navy Yard

Alexis
Police respond to the report of a shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, September 16, 2013

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Latest Updates From the Washington Navy Yard Shooting:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

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

  • DC Police have confirmed that one gunman, identified as a 34-year-old American-born male, is dead at the scene.
  • The deceased suspect, Aaron Alexis, was arrested in 2004 after shooting the tires out of another man's car.
  • Police say they are still searching for at least one other suspect, who they believe may have "potentially" also been involved in the mass shooting.
  • Authorities have confirmed that there are at least 13 fatalities.
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Conflicting information continues to roll in from the Washington Navy Yard, where at least one gunman went on a deadly shooting spree Monday morning at the military building in southeast D.C. that left at least 13 dead, including the suspected shooter.

The FBI late on Monday afternoon publicly identified the alleged gunman who was killed as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old American-born male who previously served as a Navy reservist. Police, meanwhile, continued their search for a possible second gunman, described earlier in the day by D.C. police as a black man, thought to be in his 40s or 50s, who was wearing an olive-colored uniform and carrying a "long gun"—although as the evening turned into night it appeared more or more like the mass shooting was the work of a lone gunman.

"We have no known motive at this stage," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said at an afternoon press conference. "We don’t have any reason at this stage to suspect terrorism, but certainly it has not been ruled out."

Citing Navy records released by the Pentagon, the New York Times, reports that Alexis enlisted as a full-time reservist in May 2007 and left the service in January 2011 after serving as an aviation electrician and earning the rank of mate third class, as well as the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. His last known address was in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Seattle Police Department confirmed that, prior to enlisting, Alexis had been arrested in 2004 for shooting the tires of another man's vehicle in what Alexis later told detectives was an anger-fueled "blackout." While investigating the incident, Seattle detectives spoke with Alexis' father, who said then that his son had anger management problems associated with PTSD, and had participated in rescue attempts on 9/11.

At a mid-day briefing, D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier said that police were looking for two other "potential" shooters, although local officials later confirmed that the second of those two suspects—one who was described as a white male wearing what appeared to be a khaki uniform and a beret, and carrying a handgun—had been located and cleared.

Given this continues to be a developing situation, it's important to treat many of the unconfirmed details about the shooting with a healthy degree of skepticism. In the hours after the first shots were heard there were conflicting reports on everything from the number of gunshots to the type of firearms used to the number of wounded and dead. NBC News and CBS News, meanwhile, erroneously reported what they said was the dead gunman's identity early Monday afternoon only to quickly retract those reports moments shortly after.

Lanier and other officials have stressed that police do not know for certain that there was more than one shooter, although Lanier said they had several pieces of evidence suggesting that the two other men were seen in the area carrying firearms.

The death toll has slowly climbed throughout the day and, as of shortly after 5 p.m., stood at 13, including Alexis. All of the 12 victims who were killed were civilians, according to the Navy. Fourteen others were injured, several of whom were being treated at local hospitals.

President Obama addressed the shooting briefly before delivering a speech Monday afternoon to mark the fifth anniversary of the economic crash, calling the shooting a "cowardly act" but cautioning that "we still don't know all the facts."

"So we are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital," the president said. "It’s a shooting that targeted military and civilian personnel. These are men and women going to work, doing their job protecting all of us. They’re patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home."

The first reports of gunfire came Monday morning, when the U.S. Navy confirmed that three shots were fired at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building in southeast D.C. at around 8:20 a.m.

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

This post has been updated with additional information as it became available.

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