What We Do and Don’t Know About the Washington Navy Yard Mass Shooting

Monday’s attack left at least 13 people dead, the largest mass-casualty event in DC since a plane crash in 1982.

Homeland Security police direct traffic near the Washington Navy Yard on Monday.Andre Chung/MCT/Zuma Press

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12 13 people were killed in a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC, after a gunman opened fire shortly after 8 a.m. on Monday. That number included the gunman, reportedly a 34-year-old man from Texas, who was shot and killed by law enforcement personnel after a lengthy standoff. On Monday afternoon the FBI was looking for two other men it believed were involved in the shooting, but as of Monday night it began assuming that the gunman had acted alone.

Monday’s attack represents the largest mass-casualty event in the District since a 1982 plane crash, and the fifth mass shooting in the United States since the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

As is often the case with breaking news events, numerous initial reports turned out to be false. The shooter was not 50-year-old Rollie Chance, whose ID badge was found in a car near the shooting scene and matched the description provided by law enforcement. Nor was there any corresponding gunfight at nearby Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. (To jump to the latest updates, click here.)

UPDATE, September 16, 2013, 3:40 p.m. EDT: Officials are identifying the suspected Navy Yard shooter who died after the killing spree as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old man from Fort Worth, Texas. 

UPDATE 2, September 16, 2013, 4:16 p.m. EDT: Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby confirms that Aaron Alexis was a Navy aviation electrician’s mate and served from May 2007 to January 2011. And via the NBC station in Dallas-Fort Worth, here is Alexis’ Fort Worth 2010 arrest report.

UPDATE 3, September 16, 2013, 4:38 p.m. EDT: The FBI posted this to their website, and is “asking for the public’s assistance with any information regarding Alexis.” The page includes this image:

Aaron Alexis FBI

Via FBI.gov

UPDATE 4, September 16, 2013, 4:59 p.m. EDT: Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff describe meeting Alexis—when he was a waiter at a Thai restaurant:

UPDATE 5, September 16, 2013, 5:49 p.m. EDT: Spencer Ackerman reports:

According to a Navy document, Alexis is not listed as having served overseas, but is listed as receiving the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

UPDATE 6, September 16, 2013, 5:55 p.m. EDT: According to the SPD Blotter, Aaron Alexis was 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.'”

UPDATE 7, September 16, 2013, 6:25 p.m. EDT: The US Navy has released the biographical information of alleged Navy Yards shooter Aaron Alexis. The former Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class was most recently stationed with Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 in Fort Worth, Texas, from February 1, 2008, until January 31, 2011.

UPDATE 8, September 16, 2013 6:52 p.m. EDT: According to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, Alexis was also arrested on September 4, 2010, by Fort Worth police after being accused of recklessly discharging a gun, ABC News reports. “It was determined that Alexis was cleaning a gun in his apartment when it accidentally went off,” the DA’s office said in a statement. “A bullet entered an apartment upstairs. No one was injured.”

UPDATE 9, September 16, 2013 7:06 p.m. EDT: From the Twitter feed of CBS executive producer Charlie Kay:


UPDATE 10, September 16, 2013 7:35 p.m. EDT: According to the police report from the tire-shooting incident, Alexis attributed his actions to being present during “the tragic events of September 11, 2001,” and described “how those events had disturbed him.” Detectives later spoke to Alexis’ father, who told them he’d participated in rescue attempts on 9/11 and later suffered from anger-management issues related to post-traumatic-stress syndrome.

The Seattle Times has more detail on the outcome of Alexis’ gun-related arrests. Detectives in Seattle referred the tire-shooting case for charges, but the City Attorney’s office says it never received the police report and thus never pursued the case. In Fort Worth, Alexis was released from jail the same day that he was arrested for discharging his gun in his apartment building. A spokesman for the Tarrant County DA said he was never charged with a crime.

UPDATE 11, September 16, 2013 8:26 p.m. EDT: An anonymous federal law enforcement official tells USA Today that Alexis did not appear to have an escape plan, and it was not clear that he was targeting specific people.

UPDATE 12, September 16, 2013 9:04 p.m. EDT: Does the shooter’s race tell us anything about the Navy Yard attack, as some commenters have implied? Not if you look at the data. As MoJo‘s Lauren Williams writes: “16 percent of the 67 mass shootings that have occurred since 1982 were committed by black shooters, including the alleged Navy Yard shooter, while 66 percent were committed by whites.”

UPDATE 13, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 2:01 a.m. EDT: Police have released the names of 7 of the 12 shooting victims.

UPDATE 14, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 10:22 a.m. EDT: According to CNN correspondent Pamela Brown, the “FBI Washington field office…confirmed gunman was NOT armed with AR15. Spokesperson says 1 shotgun and 2 pistols recovered.”

UPDATE 16, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 10:48 a.m. EDT: A Time exclusive:

A soon-to-be-released government audit says the Navy, in an attempt to reduce costs, let down its guard to risks posed by outside contractors at the Washington Navy Yard and other facilities, a federal official with access to the report tells TIME.

The Navy “did not effectively mitigate access-control risks associated with contractor-installation access” at Navy Yard and other Navy installations, the report by the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office says. Parts of the audit were read to TIME by a federal official with access to the document.

Read the rest here.

UPDATE 17, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 11:00 a.m. EDT: WSB-TV Atlanta has the document showing that Aaron Alexis was “issued a citation after a disturbance at a nightclub on Chamblee-Tucker Road and Interstate 285” in Atlanta, Georgia in 2008. He was cited for “disorderly conduct after DeKalb County police said he damaged furnishings inside the club and yelled profanities outside.”

UPDATE 18, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 3:46 p.m. EDT: The names of all 12 victims in the Navy Yard shooting have been released.

UPDATE 19, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 3:59 p.m. EDT: The Washington Post reports:

The lawyer for SharpShooters Small Arms Range and gun shop in Lorton [Virginia], J. Michael Slocum, this afternoon released a statement saying that Aaron Alexis purchased a Remington 870 shotgun and about two boxes of shells on Sunday.

Slocum said Sharpshooters ran a background check on Alexis through the federal National Crime Information System database and was approved.

UPDATE 20, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 4:32 p.m. EDT: Read the just-released Department of Defense Inspector General report on Navy access for contractors here. The report found that 52 convicted felons had received “routine, unauthorized installation access, placing military personnel, civilians, and installations at an increased security risk.” The reason, the inspector general found, was because the Navy “attempted to reduce access control costs.”

UPDATE 21, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 4:44 p.m. EDT: Fox News reports:

Aaron Alexis was described at different times during his 2007-[2011] stint as a full-time Navy reservist as an “eager trainee” with “unlimited potential,” who displayed a “get it done” attitude…[A 2008 evaluation] called Alexis, who was 34 when he died, a “talented technician” who meticulously carried out his duties as an aviation electrician’s mate, working on aircraft electrical systems. It also praised him for work he did off the Georgia military base where he was stationed, calling him “community minded,” and noting that he “dedicated over 10 hours of off-duty time to the Atlanta Food Bank distributing food to needy individuals in the metro Atlanta area.”

A box on the review that read “must promote” was checked.

UPDATE 22, SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 10:11 a.m. EDT: “Friends Say Aaron Alexis Was Into Buddhism for the Thai Women,” the Daily Beast reports.

Also see our interactive map of 67 mass shootings over the last three decades. To examine the full data, click here for the Google Spreadsheet view.


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Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

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