Trouble from Within: the Navy Yard Shooter

photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Written by Andrew Baugh. Media by Mikey Courtney

Tragedy struck the nation last Monday, September 16, as U.S. military veteran Aaron Alexis, 34, opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard. The resulting chaos ended up taking the lives of 13 people, including the gunman. Though his motive remains unknown, authorities have uncovered surprising revelations.

Alexis was reported to have started the assault at 8:20 local time on Monday morning. He was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun that he obtained from a security guard at the location. Valerie Parlave of the FBI revealed that the suspect had a valid pass, granting him access to Washington Navy Yard.

Alexis “appears to be moving without particular direction or purpose,” FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday after reviewing surveillance video. This leads investigators to believe that Alexis had no specific target in mind when he began his attack. “Everybody was panicking and trying to decide which way to get out,” Navy Yard worker Patricia Ward said to reporters. After several firefights, Alexis was shot and killed by police forces. He “was engaged in shooting with police officers” when he died, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters. “There is no question he would have kept shooting.”

Alexis had been treated for paranoia, hearing voices, and sleeplessness, reports the Associated Press. Rhode Island police warned the Navy after they received a call in August from Alexis in a hotel claiming that he kept hearing voices. Additionally, he believed that people were following him and “sending vibrations into his body” to stop him from sleeping. “There were a lot of red flags,” US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in reference to Alexis’s background. “Why they didn’t get picked up, why they didn’t get incorporated into the clearance process, what he was doing, those are all legitimate questions that we’re going to be dealing with.”

In total, there were 12 reported victims of the Navy Yard shooting. They ranged in age from 46 to 73 and included parents and retirees. Kathy Gaarde, 62, was a passionate bird lover and fan of the Washington Capital hockey team. The youngest victim, Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, was newly divorced and leaves behind his two sons—15-year-old Kendull and 17-year-old Kenneth Jr. The oldest victim, John Roger Johnson, 73, was “known for his infectious smile,” his daughter, Megan Johnson, 42, said to Reuters. “He would want us to forgive the shooter, because that’s how he was – a forgiving person.” These are just a few of the lives that were so suddenly ended that day. Brief descriptions of the victims can be found here.

In response to this incident, President Barack Obama called for changes to current gun laws at the Navy Yard service last Sunday, September 22. “Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is,” Obama said. “We must insist here today there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work.” Obama has sought to tighten gun control laws in the past but to varied success. “Change will come the only way it ever has come,” Obama said, “and that’s from the American people.”

There certainly seem to be an alarming amount of mass shootings occurring lately. Obama noted that this is the fifth memorial event that he’s attended for victims of mass shootings during his presidency. Do you feel that we need to strengthen gun control laws, or perhaps find some other possible solution to prevent another mass shooting from happening in the future? Feel free to give your response in the comments section. Once again, our hearts go out to all of the victims of this tragedy—as well as their families.



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