WASHINGTON — A former Navy reservist killed at least 12 people Monday in a mass shooting at a naval office building in Washington after he shot his way into the secure military facility, officials said, and then was killed by the police.
Parts of the nation’s capital were put on lockdown in the day after the shooting on the edge of Capitol Hill as the police sought two other armed suspects spotted by video cameras. But by Monday evening, federal authorities said they believed the shooting was the act of a lone gunman.
At Washington’s Navy Yard, the chaos started just after 8 a.m. Civilian employees described a scene of confusion as shots erupted through the hallways of the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters, on the banks of the Anacostia River a few miles from the White House and about a half-mile from the Capitol.
“I heard three gunshots, pow, pow, pow, straight in a row,” said Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist from Woodbridge, Va., who was in the cafeteria on the first floor when the shooting started. “About three seconds later, there were four more gunshots, and all of the people in the cafeteria were panicking, trying to figure out which way we were going to run out.”
Police officers who swarmed the military facility exchanged fire with a gunman later identified by the federal authorities as Aaron Alexis, 34, a former naval reservist from Fort Worth, Texas. Police officers shot and killed Alexis, law enforcement officials said, but not before a dozen people were killed and several others, including a police officer, were injured and taken to local hospitals.
Investigators were still trying to determine how Alexis gained access to the Navy Yard. The site is protected by a high wall, with entry through checkpoints that require official identification. However, under the “force protection status” that was believed to have been in effect early Monday, someone with official access to the site could have driven a car into the parking lot without having the trunk inspected, or could have entered on foot without having a bag searched.