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

(Continued from page 2)

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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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In 2010, he was arrested after firing a bullet through his upstairs neighbor's floor in Fort Worth. Apartment managers then asked Alexis to leave.

None of those incidents was brought to the attention of The Experts, which hired Alexis in September 2012 to work at a base in Japan, said Hoshko, the chief executive.

"If there's not full disclosure on this, how do they expect us to make good decisions about who to trust and hire?" Hoshko asked. The company said Alexis had worked since July at seven different military installations: in Little Creek, Va.; Newport, R.I.; Stafford County, Va.; Bethesda, Md.; Cherry Point, N.C.; Arlington, Va.; and finally at the Navy Yard, where he began work a few days before Monday's shootings.

Alexis obtained a secret-level security clearance in 2007, and it was updated this July. In that security review, approved by the Defense Security Service of the Department of Defense, the information data service Lexis-Nexis was hired to run a background check. It's not known if police reports about Alexis' arrests surfaced in that check.

In New York on Tuesday, Alexis' relatives remained behind the closed doors of a large red-tinted brownstone on Putnam Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Wendy Lopez, 36, who lived in an apartment just below where Alexis grew up in Flushing, Queens, remembered Aaron as the "kid with the basketball," a polite neighbor and "typical teenager."

Alexis arrived in Washington around Aug. 25, said Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. He had been staying at local hotels since then, most recently at a Residence Inn in Southwest Washington, beginning on Sept. 7.

Last Sunday, Alexis traveled to Lorton in Fairfax County, Va., to a gun shop called Sharpshooters, where he rented a rifle, fired it in the store's shooting range, passed a background check and bought a Remington 870 shotgun and about two boxes of shells, according to the store's lawyer, J. Michael Slocum.

Back in Fort Worth, Melinda Downs, owner of M&M Community Barbers, right next to the Thai restaurant where Alexis sometimes waited on tables, said her friend had called her twice in the past couple of weeks, from Rhode Island and from Washington.

She remembers how he used to come into her shop and spin around on the barber chairs. He was, she said, "the sweetest person I've ever known."

"To know that a guy that you counseled and mentored, called friend, invited into your home, would do something so devastating," she said, "you ask yourself, you go from denial, to reality, to fear, to blame, to 'Is there something I could have done?' "

"I can't fathom that he did this. It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who was this guy?"

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