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Valerie Parlave, head of the FBI's field office in Washington, said Alexis had access to the Navy Yard as a defense contractor and used a valid pass.
The attack came four years after Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood in what he said was an effort to save the lives of Muslims overseas. He was convicted last month and sentenced to death.
Contract worker behind Navy Yard shooting rampage
"It was three gunshots straight in a row pop, pop, pop. Three seconds later, it was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, so it was like about a total of seven gunshots, and we just started running," Ward said.
grew up in New York City, Alexis had had run ins with the law over shooting incidents in 2004 and 2010 in Fort Worth and Seattle and was portrayed in police reports as seething with anger.
The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.
The dead ranged in age from 46 to 73, according to the mayor. A number of the victims were civilian employees and contractors, rather than active duty military personnel, the police chief said.
The rampage took place at Building 197, the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, which buys, builds and maintains ships and submarines. About 3,000 people work at headquarters, many of them civilians.
"He just turned and started firing," Brundidge said.
Terrie Durham, an executive assistant with the same agency, said the gunman fired toward her and Brundidge.
Family members told investigators Alexis was being treated for his mental issues. in the heart of the nation's capital, less than four miles from the White House and two miles from the Capitol.
Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria getting breakfast.
The Washington Navy Yard is a sprawling, 41 acre labyrinth of Omega Watch Automatic buildings and streets protected by armed guards and metal detectors, and employees have to show their IDs at doors and gates. More than 18,000 people work there.
"We do now feel comfortable that we have the single and sole person responsible for the loss of life inside the base today," Washington police Chief Cathy Lanier said. that he said took the lives of American "patriots." He promised to make sure "whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible."
The deadly attack at the Washington Navy Yard was carried out by one of the military's own: a defense contract employee and former Navy reservist who used a valid pass to get onto the installation and started firing inside a building, killing 12 people before he was slain in a gun battle with police. since the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 was a mystery, investigators said. But a profile of the lone gunman, a 34 year old Aaron Alexis, was coming into focus. He was described as a Buddhist who had also had flares of rage, complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination and had several run ins with law enforcement, including two shootings. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that Omega Leather Strap Seamaster
Todd Brundidge, an executive assistant with Navy Sea Systems Command, said he and co workers encountered a gunman in a long hallway on the third floor. The gunman was wearing all blue, he said.
Alexis had been a full time Navy reservist from 2007 to early 2011, leaving as a petty officer third class, Omega Speedmaster Day Date Chronograph
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It put all of Washington on edge. Mayor Vincent Gray said there was no indication it was a terrorist attack, but he added that the possibility had not been ruled out.
"He aimed high and missed," she said. "He said nothing. As soon as I realized he was shooting, we just said, Get out of the building.'"
the Navy said. It did not say why he left. He had been an aviation electrician's mate with a unit in Fort Worth.
Witnesses on Monday described a gunman opening fire from a fourth floor overlook, aiming down on people on the main floor, which includes a glass walled cafeteria. Others said a gunman fired at them in a third floor hallway.
The FBI took charge of the investigation.
Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said. Alexis had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation in the case was continuing.
In addition to those killed at the Navy Yard, eight people were hurt, including three who were shot and wounded, according to the mayor. They were all expected to survive.
"This is a horrific tragedy," Gray said. The AR 15 is the same type of rifle used in last year's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed 20 students and six women. The weapon was also used in the shooting at a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 70. But by late Monday night, they said they were convinced the shooting was the work of a lone gunman, and the lockdown around the area was eased.
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