WASHINGTON — Rhode Island police warned the Navy last month that suspected Washington gunman Aaron Alexis had reported “hearing voices,” while on Tuesday the U.S. government said it will review security worldwide at military bases.
More details emerged about the history of misconduct and mental illness of the 34-year-old government contractor with a security clearance who shot dead 12 people at the U.S. Navy Yard on Monday before police killed him in a gunbattle.
A Newport, R.I., police report said Alexis complained on Aug. 7 about “hearing voices” and of people sending “vibrations to his body” to prevent him from sleeping.
The Newport police report said it warned Navy police after the incident, adding that naval police said they would “follow up on this subject and determine if he is in fact a naval base contractor.”
CNN reported that Alexis had contacted two Veterans Administration hospitals recently and was believed to be seeking psychological help.
In the wake of the latest mass shooting in the United States and questions about security at guarded buildings, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel planned to order a review of physical security and access at all Defense Department installations worldwide, a senior Pentagon official said.
The White House also said it will review standards for federal government contractors a day after Alexis opened fire on employees at the base a mile and a half from the U.S. Capitol and 3 miles from the White House. The discharged serviceman gained access to work at the Navy Yard as an information technology contractor with a private company.
The top-level revisions were prompted by questions over how Alexis was able to receive a “secret”-level clearance despite three run-ins with the law and a record of misconduct in the Navy when he was a reservist.
At the same time, a report from the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General released a yearlong audit of Navy security systems that found 52 convicted felons had received routine, unauthorized access to Navy facilities.
In demanding the report’s release, Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, had questioned whether budget cuts made the base more vulnerable.
Using a valid pass on Monday, Alexis entered the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters with a shotgun — legally purchased in Virginia — and gained access to a handgun after he started firing, Valerie Parlave, the FBI’s assistant director in charge in Washington, told reporters.
Alexis started picking off victims in a cafeteria from a fourth-floor atrium, witnesses said, killing victims between the ages of 46 and 73. Eight more were hurt, three with gunshot wounds, before Alexis was killed in a gunbattle with police.
Parlave said Alexis acted alone and said he did not have an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle as previously cited by another federal law enforcement official, who had requested anonymity.
Alexis’ employer said it had enlisted a service to make two background checks on him over the past year, finding only a traffic violation while twice confirming his secret-level security clearance with the U.S. Defense Department.
“The latest background check and security clearance confirmation were in late June of 2013 and revealed no issues other than one minor traffic violation,” The Experts, an information technology company, said in a statement.
A U.S. defense official said a check on Pentagon records showed Alexis has had secret-level security clearance since 2008, when he passed his background check. The background check was initiated in 2007. That would have been before one of his gun-related arrests and a citation for disorderly conduct.
Alexis was arrested on Sept. 4, 2010, in Fort Worth, Texas, on a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm, but prosecutors dropped the case.
He also was arrested in Seattle in 2004 for shooting out a construction worker’s car tires in an anger-fueled “blackout” triggered by perceived “disrespect,” police said. In 2008, he was cited for disorderly conduct in Dekalb County, Georgia, when he was kicked out of a club for damaging furnishings and cursing.
People who knew Alexis said they were shocked by the shooting, describing him as a lover of Thai culture who worshipped at a Buddhist temple in Texas, although one acquaintance told reporters he had an unnatural affection for violent video games.
The base was closed to all but essential personnel on Tuesday. Military police were stationed at the four entrances, checking the identifications of the employees who were being allowed back in. Other personnel milled around outside, hoping to retrieve cars that remained locked inside the gates.
“I’ve never ever felt unsafe at this place,” said David Berlin, a civilian who works at the Navy Yard as an assistant program manager building weapons systems. “If someone wants to skirt the rules, they can do that, but you trust your colleagues.”