13 killed in deadly shooting at Washington Navy headquarters

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Twelve people were killed and several more wounded Monday in a morning shooting at the Navy’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

One gunman was also killed, according to police. At least one police officer was among the wounded.

The violence led to a chaotic day at the Navy Yard, with dozens of police cars lining blocks of M Street Southeast outside the Navy base and helicopters circling the site amid fears of a terrorist attack.

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Reports varied throughout the day about how many shooters were involved in the killings, with District Chief of Police Cathy Lanier telling reporters at one point that there were two possible other shooting suspects. The Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance W. Gainer said in a release late Monday night that authorities now believe the shooter was acting alone.   

Adding to the confusion, the Senate abruptly went into lockdown for more than an hour on Monday afternoon — several hours after the Navy Yard shooting had occurred — in what was described as a cautionary move. The House did not go into lockdown.

The FBI said the suspect killed was Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas. He was identified as a former sailor who enlisted in the Navy in 2007 and served until 2011, according to biographical information released by the Navy. He reached the rank of petty officer 3rd class.

Val Parlave, the FBI field district’s assistant director, said the Bureau was seeking the public’s help to learn more about Alexis’s recent movements and contacts.

Officials said it was unclear whether the shootings were related to global terrorism.

“We don’t know what the motive is at this stage,” Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said. “We don’t have any reason at this stage to suspect terrorism, but certainly, it has not been ruled out.”

D.C. police on Tuesday released the names of the 12 victims.

Michael Arnold, 59
Sylvia Frasier, 53
Kathy Gaarde, 62
John Roger Johnson, 73
Frank Kohler, 50
Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Vishnu Pandit, 61
Arthur Daniels, 51
Mary Francis Knight, 51
Gerald L. Read, 58
Martin Bodrog, 54
Richard Michael Ridgell, 52

Most of the victims of the Navy Yard shootings were civilian employees and contractors, Lanier added. 

Lanier said the police officer who was shot was “going to be OK” but was recovering from serious injuries.

The Navy said the Navy Yard would only be open to “mission essential personnel” on Tuesday while the FBI’s investigation continues.

The Navy Yard shooting began at about 8:20 a.m. when shots rang out in Building 197, which houses the Navy Sea Systems Command.

Navy Capt. Mark Vandroff was on the third floor of the building when he heard gunshots — and saw holes in the wall.

“We heard gunfire, and we looked up and we saw two holes, not in the wall before, about 8 feet off the floor, looking up in the corner of the conference room,” Vandroff said after those in the building were released.

After the shots rang out, Vandroff said that he and his co-workers barricaded the doors to a conference room and were staying on the ground until they were evacuated from Building 197 at about 10 a.m. by police. The group was held in a nearby building until it was released at 3 p.m.

He said he later learned that he had served with one of the victims killed Monday, whom he did not identify.

“We were trying to stay down, and we were trying to be as safe as we could under the situation,” he said. “We flipped over tables; we were flipping over chairs.”

Navy Cmdr. Tim Jirus got out of Building 197 quickly, but then had a near-brush with death.

Jirus said that he and more than 100 people evacuated into an alley behind Building 197, and a man he did not know approached him to ask about a possible shooter. They had spoken for about one minute when two more shots rang out, Jirus said. The other man was shot in the head.

“I feel very lucky to be standing here talking to you as opposed to somewhere else,” he told reporters.

Jirus said he sprinted after the shots were fired and hopped a fence to escape.

Some witnesses inside described the shooting as a muffled sound, almost like a cap gun.

Patricia Ward, a Navy civilian, was getting breakfast on Monday morning at the Navy Yard cafeteria in the building when she heard the gunshots.

“There were three gunshots, straight in a row: Pop, pop, pop,” said Ward

Seconds later, she heard another four shots, which were coming from the floor above her in Building 197.

When the shots stopped, a security guard told her and the others in the cafeteria to get out.

“She told us all to just run. Get away as far as you can,” Ward told reporters gathered on M Street.

While Building 197 was evacuated after police interviewed those inside at about 3 p.m., other buildings in the Navy Yard remained on lockdown several hours afterward.

Employees who worked at the Navy Yard said they felt it was a secure facility. They said that metal detectors were not used to enter the facility but that an access card was required to get into Building 197.

“There’s all kinds of security here. I’ve never once felt any kind of threat or insecurity,” said Navy Musician 1st Class Joe Friedman.

— This story was posted on Monday at 9:11 a.m. and last updated on Tuesday at 11:58 a.m.