Missed flags on Navy Yard shooter: Paranoid episodes, firearms incidents

DoD report Navy Yard shootings

DoD report on Navy Yard shootings (DoD website)

By the time Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and injured 4 others at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013, numerous red flags had been missed. His behavior while in the U.S. Navy and after, while he worked as a contractor,  included paranoid episodes and firearms incidents.

When Alexis entered the Navy Yard on the day of the shootings, he had concealed a modified shotgun. He had been working at that site for one week. During the attacks, he managed to acquire a Beretta handgun.

The latest reports published by the Dept. of Defense (DoD) include numerous instances of bizarre behavior, including information his mother told his employer, The Experts, on Aug. 9, 2013:

“Alexis had been paranoid and this was not the first episode he experienced.”

The HR director had called Alexis’ mother after a series of incidents.

Alexis had told various people, including a program manager with his employer, that he believed people were following him, “knocking on walls and…making noise” at his hotel, and “sending vibrations into his body.”

He had called the police in the City of Newport on Aug. 7 to report he had a “verbal altercation with an unknown party at the Norfolk Airport,” and the party “had sent three people to follow him and to keep him awake by talking to him and sending vibrations into his body.” He believed people were speaking to him through walls, the floor, and the ceiling.

Alexis also believed these people used “some sort of microwave machine” to “send vibrations through the ceiling,” and the vibrations penetrated his body, keeping him awake. The police left after taking the report, but passed it along to the Naval Station Newport Security Office “in the event this person escalates.”

At one point, Alexis told his employer’s shift deployment supervisor people were disrupting his sleep and he “wanted to acquire a radar gun in order to hear what they were saying.”

The DoD report also said Alexis went to the emergency room in Providence (R.I.) on Aug. 23, 2013, and in Washington (D.C.) on Aug. 28 to seek treatment for insomnia. He was prescribed Trazodone. The report said Alexis was asked during the Aug. 23rd visit if he “had thoughts of harming someone else,” and Alexis answered, “No.”

Trazodone is an antidepressant described by Drugs.com as a drug “used to treat major depressive disorder.” One common side effect is confusion. However, as with any drug, there are also other potential side effects with Trazodone such as excitement as well as trouble sleeping. Information at the drugs site included:

“Psychiatric side effects have been reported and include mania, paranoia, hypomania (during and following therapy), increased libido, delirium, agitation, psychosis, hallucinations and self- destructive behavior.”

The reports also noted firearm incidents in Alexis’ past. One had occurred in 2004, when he shot out the tires of a car with a Glock .45 caliber handgun in a residential area. Charges were ultimately dismissed, and in a background check investigation, Alexis claimed the incident was “malicious mischief”—he didn’t mention the gun.

Alexis also had contradictory information in his “reported references, education, delinquent debts, places of address, and foreign travel.”

The report said:

“A more thorough investigation may have given the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility sufficient facts on which to simply deny Alexis security clearance eligibility…”

There were other incidents in 2008, 2009, and 2010:

─August, 2008: An arrest for disorderly conduct at a night club where he damaged furnishings and yelled profanities. He was arrested and jailed, but those charges were dismissed in January, 2009.

─May, 2009: He had several drinks and fractured his right ankle after leaping from stairs in a parking garage. He received non-judicial punishment for Disorderly Conduct Drunkenness.

─September, 2010:  Arrested in Fort Worth (Texas) for discharging a firearm within a municipality of a population of 100,000 or more. Those charges were dropped.

Alexis’ security clearance was at the “Secret” level according to the final report. He had transitioned from active duty in the U.S. Navy to the Individual Ready Reserve in the Navy in January, 2011.

In September, 2012, he was hired by The Experts Inc., a contractor to Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services,  LLC. He resigned on Dec. 27, 2012, but reapplied in June, 2013.

From July to Sept., 2013, The Experts assigned him to work in locations in Virginia, Rhode Island, and Maryland.

The lengthy reports detail other incidents that should have raised flags about an individual with a “Secret” security clearance.

The reports offer a variety of recommendations to prevent such situations in the future.

The Internal Review of the shootings asked a question in the introduction—“What did we miss?”


Sources/Reports from U.S. Dept. of Defense



(Filed by Kay B. Day/March 18, 2014)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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