Washington Navy Yard Killer 'Heard Voices'

Washington Navy Yard Killer 'Heard Voices'

Questions are being raised over whether spending cuts led to lax security which allowed a man with a history of gun crime and mental health problems to carry out a massacre at a US navy yard.

Armed with a shot gun, former US Navy reservist Aaron Alexis walked on to the base and into the US Navy Sea Systems Command headquarters, killing 12 people.

During a press conference, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that he was determined to kill as many people as possible.

She said that the 34-year-old was only stopped when he was shot dead after half an hour of  running gun battles with police officers.

And she paid tribute to those officers who had gone into building 197 on the naval yard when Alexis was on the rampage, despite the danger.

Alexis had been arrested for gun-related incidents in both 2004 and 2010 and was discharged from the Navy after a number of incidents of insubordination.

Despite this, Alexis had access to the highly secure Washington Navy Yard as a defence contractor for The Experts, a team subcontracted by IT giant Hewlett-Packard to work on IT for the Navy.

He had "legitimate access" and used a valid pass to enter the base to carry out the shooting, the FBI said.

According to his employers he had only started at the yard last week but the FBI said that he has been in Washington since August 25 and had been staying at a number of local hotels.

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said he was baffled how Alexis had the job and the access to the yard.

"It's hard to believe that someone with a record as chequered as this man could get clearance, credentials, to get on the base," he told CNN.

"We know this is one of the most secure facilities in the nation. So how this could happen is beyond belief."

Mr Gray said mandatory spending cuts that hit the government and the military this year may have hit security at the yard.

The yard, a sprawling labyrinth of buildings and streets, is protected by armed guards and metal detectors, and employees have to show their IDs at doors and gates.

But Alexis was carrying a legally obtained shotgun and he was later able to take a handguns from police officers at the scene, the FBI has confirmed.

The US Navy Secretary has now ordered a full security review for all Navy and Marine Corps bases, which will look at whether existing security standards are being maintained.

US officials have said that a draft Defense Department audit had criticised one of the Navy's security review processes for low-level contractors because it did not properly check workers but said that this was not used to evaluate Alexis.

He had undergone a more thorough review.

David Stevens, a navy contractor who was on the third floor of Building 197 when the shooting began, told The Washington Post: "It's unbelievable that someone could get a rifle in there."

According to law enforcement officials, Alexis had been hearing voices in his head and was suffering from paranoia and a sleep disorder. Some reports suggested he regularly played violent video games.

He had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said.

Seattle Police reports said Alexis was "seething with anger" after an incident in 2004 in which he shot out the tyres of a car belonging to builders he believed were mocking him.

They also describe how Alexis, a convert to Buddhism who was brought up in Brooklyn, had been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder following 9/11 as a result of helping with rescue efforts.

In 2010 he was arrested after discharging a firearm in his apartment. He told police he had been cleaning the gun when it accidentally went off. In 2008 he was given a ticket for disorderly conduct by police after being thrown out of an Atlanta nightclub.

US officials said that Alexis received an honourable discharge from the Navy despite a string of misconduct problems during his three years in the military, when he based in Forth Worth Texas from 2008 to 2011.

They said incidents of insubordination and disorderly conduct were enough to make it clear Alexis would not be a good sailor but not enough to warrant a general or less-than-honourable discharge.

He received two medals during his service - both are issued to large numbers of service members who served since the 9/11 attacks.

Police have named the 12 victims as Michael Arnold, Martin Bodrog, 54, Arthur Daniels, 51, Sylvia Frasier, 53, Kathy Gaarde, 62, John Roger Johnson, 73, Frank Kohler, 50, Mary Francis Knight, 51, Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, Vishnu Pandit, 61, Gerald L Read, 58 and Richard Michael Ridgell, 52.

Another 14 people - including three who were shot - were injured.

Alexis's brother-in-law, Anthony Little, said his relatives were distraught.

"Their hearts are going out more to the victims who got hurt," Mr Little said.