September 17, 2013

Navy yard shooting suspect was discharged from Navy Reserve, had anger issues

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Aaron Alexis lived for a time in a bungalow in the woods near a Buddhist temple in Fort Worth, Texas, where he occasionally joined Thai immigrants in meditation. Aaron Alexis died Monday in a gun battle with police in a building at the Washington Navy Yard after he killed at least 12 people.

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This undated cell phone photo provided by Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul shows a smiling Aaron Alexis in Fort Worth, Texas. The FBI has identified Alexis, 34, as the gunman in the Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 shooting rampage at at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington that left thirteen dead, including himself. (AP Photo/Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul)

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In between, the man named as the shooter in Monday's mass murder at Navy Yard Building 197 was discharged from the Navy Reserve, arrested for shooting a bullet into his downstairs neighbor's apartment and then asked to leave his Fort Worth apartment.

A Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Alexis was discharged in January 2011 for "a pattern of misconduct" and that the 2010 gun incident in Texas played a role in his departure.

Another Navy official said Alexis was given a "general discharge," a classification often used to designate a blemished record of performance. In some cases, a general discharge can make it difficult to land a civilian job.

Alexis, 34, arrived in Washington about four months ago, friends said. He had worked recently for a defense contractor called The Experts, which is a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract to work on the Navy Marine Corps's Intranet network, according to Hewlett-Packard spokesman Michael Thacker. Officials at The Experts did not immediately reply to phone messages. It was unclear if Alexis was still employed by that subcontractor, or if his work had brought him to the Navy yard.

Investigators Monday night were examining how Alexis got into the Navy yard, and whether he had or used the identification card of a former Navy petty officer that was found near Alexis's body after police killed him.

Those who knew Alexis in recent years describe him as a "sweet and intelligent guy" (a regular customer at the Thai restaurant where he worked as a waiter), as "a good boy" (his landlord), but also as someone who was "very aggressive," someone who seemed like he might one day kill himself (a lay worker at the Buddhist temple where Alexis worshipped.)

In 2004, Alexis was arrested in Seattle after he fired three shots from a Glock pistol into the tires of a Honda Accord that two construction workers had parked in a driveway adjacent to Alexis' s house. Alexis's father told Seattle detectives then that his son "had experienced anger management problems that the family believed was associated with PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the police report. The father said that Alexis "was an active participant in rescue attempts of Sept. 11, 2001."

Alexis's own explanation for his behavior that day: the construction workers had "mocked" and "disrespected" him and then he had had "a black-out fueled by anger."

Alexis was not charged in the Seattle incident.

More recently, Alexis struck those who crossed his path as a man of sharp contrasts. He studied the Thai language, visited Thailand for a month, was studying for an online degree in aeronautical engineering and seemed to enjoy conversing with customers, according to friends, customers and fellow worshippers. But some of those same people said that Alexis had an aggressive streak, one that caused them to keep their distance and avoid personal questions.

Alexis grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his mother Sarah and father Anthony Alexis, according to his aunt Helen Weeks. "We haven't seen him for years," Weeks said in a phone interview. "I know he was in the military. He served abroad. I think he was doing some kind of computer work."

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