WASHINGTON (AFP) – Investigators on Tuesday tried to piece together what led a former U.S. Navy reservist to open fire at a Washington base, killing 12 people before being gunned down by police.
Police identified the gunman as Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas, who served in the Navy from 2007 to 2011 before becoming a defense subcontractor for computer giant Hewlett-Packard.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public for information on the 34-year-old, whose military service was marked by disciplinary problems and who had had previous run-ins with police for discharging firearms.
“No piece of information is too small. We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements, his contacts and his associates,” said Valerie Parlave, assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office.
Washington mayor Vincent Gray said he was baffled that the shooter got the job he had.
“It’s hard to believe that someone with a record as checkered as this man could get clearance, credentials, to get on the base,” he told CNN.
“I just met with the commandant of the Washington Naval Yard last week. We know this is one of the most secure facilities in the nation. So how this could happen is beyond belief.”
Asked about a possible motive, Gray declined to speculate. But he said mandatory spending cuts that hit the government and the military this year may have reduced security at the yard.
“We somehow skimped on what would be available for projects like this and then we put people at risk. Obviously 12 people have paid the ultimate price for whatever — you know, whatever was done to have this man on the base,” Gray said.
U.S. authorities said Alexis appears to have acted alone in carrying out the murderous shooting spree, which press reports said also injured 14 at Washington’s Navy Yard.
“We do now feel comfortable that we have the single and sole person responsible for the loss of life inside of the base today,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier said late Monday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was to lay a wreath Tuesday at the scene of the shooting to honor the victims.
The FBI released a photo of Alexis, who held the rank of an Aviation Electrician’s Mate Third Class, and had served full-time in a logistics support squadron in Fort Worth, according to the Navy.
The shooting left Washington on edge and there was a security scare hours later at the White House when a man who apparently threw firecrackers over a fence at the U.S. president’s residence was swiftly arrested.