By Carol D. Leonnig, Theresa Vargas and David A. Fahrenthold, Updated: Monday, September 16,2:30 PM E-mail the writers
The dead gunman in Monday’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard is Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy veteran and native of Brooklyn, an FBI official said Monday afternoon.
Police say it is unclear if Alexis acted alone. Authorities are still searching for another possible suspect: a black man in his 40s with gray sideburns, wearing an olive-drab military-style uniform.
(Courtesy of FBI) - Aaron Alexis, who has been identified as the dead gunman in the shooting at Washington Navy Yard.
Alexis died at the scene of Monday’s shooting, in which at least 12 other people died. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said no motive is known.
FBI Assistant Director Valerie Parlave asked the public to call 1-800-CALL-FBI with any information about him: “No piece of information is too small. We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements.”
By Monday afternoon, a portrait of Alexis had begun to emerge. He left the Navy in 2011, and until recently lived in Fort Worth, and was a regular—if unusual—figure at a Buddhist temple.
Alexis spoke Thai, the language of many other temple worshippers, and also worked as a waiter at a Thai restaurant. At the Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center, Alexis came to meditate twice a week. But he still seemed so tightly wound that at least one worker there sought to avoid him.
“He would help people if they came in carrying heavy things,” said J. Sirun, an assistant to the monks at the center. “From the outside, he was a quiet person. But on the inside, I think he was very aggressive. He did not like to be close with anybody, like a soldier who has been at war.”
Alexis was memorable because he had so many Thai friends and spoke Thai “very well,” Sirun said. “He understood about 75 percent of the language.”
“I didn’t think he could be this violent,” Sirun said. “I would not have been surprised to hear he had committed suicide. But I didn’t think he could commit murder.”
Somsak Srisan, who also frequented the temple, learned that Alexis needed a place to stay. He offered to rent him a two-bedroom white bungalow behind the temple. Srisan said Alexis lived there for a year and didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and never missed a payment on his $600 a month rent.
Srisan said he doesn’t know why Alexis left his job at the base. They spoke about it only once, and it was a brief conversation, he said.
“I asked him, ‘Why you quit the job with the government?” Srisan said, speaking broken English. “He said somebody doesn’t like me.”
Srisan said he didn’t ask Alexis any more questions because, “I don’t want to go too deep with him.”
A manager at Happy Bowl Thai, where Alexis was a frequent customer and a friend of the owner, said she was struck by how kind he was.
“Yes, he was a very nice guy. I would never think he would do this. Never,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
Military personnel records show that 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.
Those Navy officials said they were still researching whether Alexis had been employed as a defense contractor or a civilian employee of the Navy, and were uncertain if he was assigned to work at the Navy Yard.
Police are investigating whether the identification of former Navy petty officer Rollie Chance was used by Alexis to enter the Navy Yard compound. An ID belonging to Chance was found near the body of Alexis, the gunman.
Federal investigators visited Chance’s home Monday. A relative of Rollie Chance said in a telephone interview that Chance, from Stafford, Va., was not at the Navy Yard and was neither a witness nor a suspect and asked the media to leave the family alone.
In the Navy, Alexis 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.
Alexis was assigned to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 at Naval Air Station Fort Worth in Texas for the bulk of his time in the military, from 2008 until he left the service in 2011, records show. He was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal— two common awards for military personnel.
Meanwhile, a relative of Alexis said she hadn’t seen him in several years.
“We haven’t seen him for years,” said Helen Weeks 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.” Weeks, who lives in Seattle, said that Alexis had grown up in New York, including in Brooklyn and Queens.
Weeks said she was receiving constant media calls Monday afternoon in which reporters asked her if she knew if Alexis had been involved in a shooting in Washington, D.C. She said she had not been contacted by police.
“I’d be shocked if it was him, but I don’t know,” she said, her voice trailing off.
Monday, as word spread about the shooting, many members of the Wat Busayadhammavanaram community gathered at the temple to discuss what happened.
“They don’t believed it that he could kills 12 people like that,” Srisan said.
A story posted on the Web site of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Monday said that Alexis was arrested in 2010 for illegally discharging a firearm. The paper cited a Fort Worth police report that said police had been dispatched to Alexis’ apartment complex about 6:40 p.m. Sept. 4, 2010, on a report that someone had fired a shot through the floor and into the ceiling of a woman’s apartment.
Police found that Alexis had fired a shot through the ceiling of his apartment, missing his upstairs neighbor by a few feet. Alexis later said his gun had gone off while he was cleaning it, the paper said.
Craig Whitlock, Steve Hendrix and Julie Tate contributed to this report.