At least 13 people are dead and several others were wounded after a shooter opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, police said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities sought to contain the panic.
The incident, in which the death toll rose almost hourly, represents the single worst loss of life in the District since an airliner plunged into the Potomac River in 1982, killing 78.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the mounting number of casualties in a series of news conferences. The suspected shooter, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis, 34, from Forth Worth, Texas, is among the 13 dead. Alexis was a military contractor, one official said.
Gray said no motive is known yet. He said there is no reason to believe it was an act of terrorism, though he added that he could not rule it out.
Lanier described the other possible suspect, who has not been located, as a black man in his 40s with gray sideburns, wearing an olive-drab military-style uniform. He, and the man who was cleared, came under suspicion when they were seen on surveillance videos.
Alexis grew up in Brooklyn with his mother, Sarah, and father, Anthony Alexis, according to his aunt Helen Weeks.
“We haven’t seen him for years,” Weeks said of her nephew in a telephone interview. “I know he was in the military. He served abroad. I think he was doing some kind of computer work.”
Alexis spent nearly four years in the Navy as a full-time reservist from May 2007 until he was discharged in January 2011, according to a summary of his personnel records released by Navy officials at the Pentagon.
He achieved his final rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class in December 2009. Officials said they did not immediately know the reasons for his discharge.
The carnage began around 8 p.m. when the U.S. Navy said that three shots were fired at Building 197, headquaters of the Naval Sea Systems Command. About 3,000 people work in the building.
Rick Mason, a program management analyst who is a civilian with the U.S. Navy, told the Associated Press that a gunman was shooting from a fourth floor overlook in the hallway outside his office. He said the gunman was aiming at people in the building’s first floor cafeteria.
“He didn’t say a word,” said her co-worker, Todd Brundage.
Another Drill Gone Live like Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston Bombing: from USA Today, 9/16: “Dave Sarr, an environmental engineer, was walking down a nearby street when he saw people running from the Navy Yard. Sarr had seen an evacuation drill a few days earlier at the Navy Yard. “At first I thought it was another drill,” Sarr said. “Then I saw an officer with his weapon drawn.”