September 18, 2013

Navy Yard shooter started slipping last year, friends say

As a man who was losing touch with reality, Aaron Alexis left a trail of police reports, arrest records and mental health consultations.

By Sari Horwitz, Marc Fisher and Leslie Minora / The Washington Post

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This undated photo provided by Kristi Suthamtewakul shows Aaron Alexis. Officials say Alexis, an information technology employee with a defense contractor, used a valid pass to get into the Washington Navy Yard building where he opened fire Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, killing 12 people. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Kristi Suthamtewakul)

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Megan Ridgell, left, and Colette Turner take part in a candlelight vigil in honor of Richard Michael Ridgell, Megan's father, at Jaycee Park in Westminster, Md. Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. Ridgell was killed in Monday's shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington. (AP Photo/Carroll County Times, Dave Munch)

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Later that day, Newport Sgt. Frank Rosa Jr. reviewed the incident report and called the Naval Station police and faxed them the report. "They said they would follow up," Fitzgerald said.

Lisa Rama, a public affairs officer at Naval Station Newport, said base officials were cooperating with the FBI. She declined to comment on whether military police followed up.

The Navy on Tuesday revised its account of Alexis' departure in 2011. Although the service had originally sought to kick him out with a less-desirable general discharge after he'd been cited for misconduct at least eight times, the Navy instead granted Alexis an honorable discharge when he applied to leave.

The Navy cited Alexis for insubordination in 2008, disorderly conduct in 2009 and extended unauthorized absences between 2008 and 2010, according to a Navy official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the alleged gunman's personnel record. Alexis was also cited for minor offenses such as a traffic ticket and showing up late.

In Fort Worth, he had settled into a Thai immigrant community where he occasionally meditated at a Buddhist temple and worked and lived with a family that owns Happy Bowl, a Thai restaurant.

The restaurateur, Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, said he and Alexis got along well until last December, when Suthamtewakul got married and Alexis, who had written the best man's speech for the wedding, "started being quiet" and keeping to himself.

The restaurateur's wife, Kristi Suthamtewakul, said her car wouldn't start on July 5 because someone had put sugar in the gas tank. Her husband called the police.

"Our car was locked in the garage, and [Alexis] was the only one who had keys to the house," Kristi said.

Throughout his adult life, Alexis had grievances and episodes of anger that stuck in the memories of those around him.

In New York, where Alexis grew up, his manager at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where he worked as a part-time clerical assistant from 2001 to 2003, recalled him as someone who held grudges longer and harder than others might.

"Somebody would make a mistake that he thought was a bonehead idiotic mistake, but he'd go on and on about it for weeks," said Barry Williams, Alexis' boss in the administrative computing office. "He's not one of those guys who when they do something like this, everyone says, 'Oh, he's so quiet and nice.' He had an edge."

On Sept. 11, 2001, Williams was walking to work just blocks from the World Trade Center, when he heard a low-flying plane and then a crash. Williams cannot recall what Alexis did that day, but Alexis' father told Seattle police after his son was arrested there in 2004 that Aaron had helped with the rescue operation and had been traumatized by the experience.

The Seattle arrest came after Alexis fired three shots from a Glock pistol into the tires of a Honda Accord that construction workers had parked near Alexis' house. Alexis told police that he had had "a blackout fueled by anger." He was not charged after paperwork in the case was apparently misplaced.

Four years later, Alexis was arrested and held for two nights after he damaged furniture at the Velvet Room, a nightclub in DeKalb County, Ga. After Alexis was ordered out of the club, he began cursing and "would not stop," the police report said.

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