Aaron Alexis, identified as the deceased Washington Navy Yard shooter, had been arrested twice for the unlawful discharge of a firearm prior to his Monday shooting spree, records show. Alexis, 34, was reportedly working for a Navy subcontractor at the time of the shooting.
Alexis was arrested in 2004 for shooting out the tires on a Seattle construction worker’s automobile, the Seattle Police Department reports. Alexis later claimed that he could not remember firing the shots during a “blackout.” He claimed that the construction worker had mocked him and “disrespected” him before the shooting. Paperwork concerning Alexis’ arrest for property damage and the discharge of a firearm were reportedly lost, and no charges were filed against him for the incident.
During the investigation for this arrest, Alexis’ father, who lived in New York at the time, told Seattle police that his son was involved in rescue attempts immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder from the experience.
In 2010, Alexis was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, after firing a shot through his ceiling and into the apartment of a woman living above him, narrowly missing her. At the time, he claimed that he was cleaning his gun when it accidentally discharged. Investigators believed his story and charges against Alexis were dropped.
Alexis spent several years in the Navy after enlisting in 2007. The New York City native served as an aviation electrician until 2011, according to military records, and was stationed in Great Lakes, Ill., and Fort Worth. He received his final rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class in December 2009.
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During his service, Alexis was awarded two medals: the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. Both are common for military personnel. ABC News reports that Alexis was discharged under less-than-honorable circumstances after a series of misconduct incidents.
After his discharge from the Navy, Alexis appears to have begun working for a naval subcontractor. According to a statement from Hewlett-Packard, he worked for a company called The Experts, providing support to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services, which in turn serviced equipment for the Navy.
“We are deeply saddened by today’s tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard. Our thoughts and sympathies are with all those who have been affected,” Michael Thacker, director of corporate media relations for Hewlett-Packard, said in a statement on Monday evening, “Aaron Alexis was an employee of a company called ‘The Experts,’ a subcontractor to an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) network. HP is cooperating fully with law enforcement as requested.”
Alexis appears to have obtained access to the Navy Yard through this job. Thomas Hosko, CEO of The Experts, tells the Washington Post that Alexis obtained security clearance for the Navy Yard in July. He had just finished working a contract in Japan and was reassigned to the Navy Yard soon before the shooting.
“Nobody could have done anything to prevent this except Aaron Alexis,” Hoshko said. “Maybe he snapped. I don’t know. It’s just the most unfortunate incident I’ve seen in all my career. “
Hoshko also stated that though Alexis was discharged from the military, he was still qualified to work as a contractor.
“Discharge from the military does not automatically disqualify a person from getting a job as a military contractor or a security clearance. It depends on what the circumstances are,” Hoshko said. “Obviously he was well-qualified. This really came out and shocked all of us.”
Alexis may have also used the ID of former Navy Petty Officer Rollie Chance to get into the complex. An ID belonging to Chance was found near Alexis’ body, though Chance was nowhere near the Navy Yard at the time. Chance is not being treated as a witness or a suspect during the case.
Relatives of Alexis say that they have not spoken with him in several years. His aunt Helen Weekes, who lives in Seattle, tells the Washington Post that he has been out of touch with the family for some time, and she appears to have been unfamiliar with his recent whereabouts and employment history.
“We haven’t seen him for years,” Weekes told the Post. “I know he was in the military. He served abroad. I think he was doing some kind of computer work.”
“I’d be shocked if it was him, but I don’t know,” she continued.
While Alexis was stationed in Fort Worth, he appears to have been a member of the Buddhist Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center. According to ABC News, he was fluent in Thai and worked as a waiter at a Thai restaurant.
“I think he was very aggressive. He did not like to be close with anybody, like a soldier who has been at war,” J. Sirun, an assistant to monks at the mediation center, told the Washington Post. “I didn’t think he could be this violent. I would not have been surprised to hear he had committed suicide. But I didn’t think he could commit murder.”
Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, who lived with Alexis in Fort Worth for three years and owns the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant, says he refuses to believe that Alexis was the killer.
"I don't believe he did that," Suthamtewakul told ABC News. "He can be tough physically, but I don't think he'd kill people."
"He's not aggressive," he continued. "He had a gun but that doesn't mean he's gonna shoot people. He had a concealed-weapons permit."
FBI Assistant Director Valerie Parlave has asked that anyone with more information on Alexis or his motives call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
“No piece of information is too small. We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements,” she told the Washington Post.