Obama in gun law plea after Washington Navy Yard deathsBBC.co.uk
September 23, 2013
President Barack Obama has renewed calls for changes to US gun laws at a memorial service for the victims of last week's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
Mr Obama said tears were "not enough".
The president told mourners Americans must insist that "there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work".
Twelve people were killed last Monday by contractor Aaron Alexis, who was himself shot dead by police.
The 34-year-old reportedly had untreated mental health difficulties.
Mr Obama called on Americans to abandon their "creeping resignation" to mass shootings.
Acknowledging that "the politics are difficult" - a reference to his failure to get measures through Congress earlier this year - the president said change would not come from Washington.
"Change will come the only way it ever has come, and that's from the American people," Mr Obama told the crowd.
He noted that this was the fifth time he had spoken at a memorial event for victims of a mass shooting since the start of his presidency.
After the massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut last December, the president sought to introduce expanded background checks for buyers of guns, and to re-introduce an expired ban on military-style assault weapons.
Those measures have effectively died in the Senate, as they will not get the 60 votes needed to pass.
United Nations statistics show the US has a much higher rate of firearm-related murder than other developed nations.
'Not just statistics'
Mr Obama and his wife Michelle met privately with victims' relatives ahead of the shooting memorial, the White House said.
The BBC's correspondent in Washington, Katy Watson, reports that as well as using the speech to address the issue of gun crime, the president talked in detail about the victims' lives and families.
He wanted to make sure these people were remembered for who they were, not just gun crime statistics, our correspondent says.
Navy yard gunman given security clearance despite 'lie' about arrest
Aaron Alexis, who shot dead 12, was given secret-level security clearance despite omission from application form
By Paul Lewis - TheGuardian.com
September 23, 2013
Aaron Alexis, the former US navy reservist who shot dead 12 employees at a Washington military base last week, was granted a secret-level security clearance even after an FBI database search revealed he had apparently lied on his application form, about an arrest.
An internal inquiry has established that when Alexis first enlisted, in June 2007, he declared on a security questionnaire that he had never been arrested. However, a fingerprint check on an FBI database revealed that he had been arrested three years previously, in Seattle.
He was still granted a special security clearance, after attending an interview and claiming that he did not think he needed to declare the arrest. Alexis provided only a partial explanation of the incident in Seattle, in which he is now known to have used a gun to shoot the tyres of car belonging to a construction worker.
A summary of the quick-turnaround navy inquiry – one of three internal reviews announced after Alexis's killing spree at the Washington navy yard seven days ago – was provided to reporters by a navy official on Monday. The official was not authorised to go on the record because he was providing a detailed breakdown of Alexis's time in the military, between 2007 and 2011.
Defence officials have previously acknowledged that several "red flags" were missed in Alexis's background, allowing him to achieve and retain a secret security clearance and work as a navy contractor despite a string of police-related and behavioral problems.
The inquiry raises questions for both the navy, which granted Alexis security-level clearance, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal agency responsible for conducting background checks on government workers. It was revealed last week that OPM had contracted out at least one of Alexis's background checks to USIS, a Virginia-based company.
The assessment of Alexis's suitability for security clearance appears to have overlooked the crucial details of the incident in Seattle, which occurred in 2004. Alexis later told police he had shot the tyres of the construction worker's car after an "anger-fuelled" blackout. He was charged with malicious mischief, but the charge was later dismissed.
The Seattle police report which documented the incident did not feature in the OPM investigation, which was triggered after the FBI database revealed that Alexis had been arrested over an incident he failed to declare on his security questionnaire. Instead, it appears to have been based primarily upon an account of the Seattle incident provided by Alexis after he was called to an interview to explain himself. Detailing Alexis's side of the story, the OPM report says Alexis had an altercation with the construction worker "and retaliated by deflating [his] tyres". There is no mention of him having used a firearm.
In his interview, Alexis said he had chosen not to declare the arrest in Seattle on his application form, as required, because the charge had by then been dismissed. He also said his lawyer in Seattle had told him the incident would be removed from his record. However, one question on the application form specifically asks whether an individual has been arrested in the previous seven years, irrespective of charge or conviction.
"The subject committed this offense because he was retaliating for being intimidated by the male person," the OPM report concluded. "The subject does not intend to repeat this type of behavior because he would avoid any confrontation and notify authorities if a similar situation were to occur in the future."
Months later, after reviewing that OPM report – but not the Seattle police report – the navy granted Alexis secret-level security clearance. There was no reference to the shooting incident, or to the the failure by Alexis to declare his arrest. The only caveat to the security clearance was a reference to his poor credit history.
Although Alexis's work in Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 did not require secret-level security clearance, new recruits are often put through the process in case they should need it in the future. Military security clearances of the kind granted to Alexis are primarily designed to detect whether a recruit is susceptible to disloyalty or bribery from an enemy force.
The clearance lasted 10 years and therefore applied when, in 2012, a year after leaving the navy reserves, Alexis obtained a job as an IT contractor working on navy installations. The official who briefed reporters on Monday said he could not say "definitively" whether Alexis would have been denied a secret-level clearance had the navy known that he had lied in in his application.
The navy official said the police report of the incident in Seattle and the version produced by the OPM after interviewing Alexis "depict two very different events". The inquiry has recommended that all future OPM background checks "include any available police documents", rather than simply relying on the account given by the person applying for clearance.
The inquiry, which was into Alexis's service record and performance during his three years in the navy, also established that his commander was on the cusp of throwing him out of the navy in late 2010, after he was arrested over a second firearm incident, in which he fired a bullet into the apartment of a neighbour in Fort Worth, Texas, after a dispute over noise.
Alexis's commander's legal officer wrote up a memo recommending Alexis be removed from the navy, but the letter was shelved after a decision not to bring charges against him. Alexis had told police he had discharged his gun by accident while cleaning it.
Alexis left the navy of his own accord. He requested to leave the toward the end of 2010, under a scheme designed to downsize sections of the military considered to be overmanned. He was honorably discharged in January 2011, after telling commanders he wanted to go to college.
Escape from the navy yard: 'We realised we had to get out of the building'
Bertillia Lavern gives detailed account of attack from inside the compound – where one of her friends was shot in the head
September 20, 2013
The first bang sounded distant and muffled. On the fourth floor, Bertillia Lavern assumed somebody downstairs was setting up for an event and had dropped a folding table.
But when the bangs kept coming, Lavern recognized the sounds.
Years earlier, before taking a civilian office job at naval sea systems headquarters, Lavern was a navy medical specialist. Known as a corpsman, she'd been on training operations with the marines. She knew the snap of gunfire.
The 39-year-old hit the ground and scurried under a desk with her supervisor in a nearby cubicle, she said. They stayed there silently as the shots continued.
From that vantage point, the building's open floor plan allowed her to view the fifth floor, where she saw someone moving.
"Get down!" she screamed, emerging from her hiding place.
She remembers her supervisor, Andy Kelly, making the same demand of her. And she remembers a bright flash of light.
"Glass shattered right by my head," she told the Associated Press in a phone interview on Thursday. "It was on the edge of Andy's cubicle."
Lavern's account is the most detailed yet by someone who was inside the navy yard when former navy reservist Aaron Alexis, a contractor who had worked at the navy yard for less than a month, shot and killed 12 civilians on Monday before being killed by police.
Lavern said she and Kelly ducked down again and waited for a break in the shooting.
"We realized then we had to get out of the building," she said. "Andy looked around the corner to check that the coast was clear."
Lavern crawled to her desk to grab her identification badge and her purse. From there she saw her colleague, Vishnu Pandit.
"He was down."
Pandit, 61, had spent 30 years with the navy. Known to his coworkers as Kisan, he had two sons and was a grandfather and lived in North Potomac, Md. He was the first person she greeted at the office each morning. And he had been shot in his left temple.
Using tissues from his desk, Lavern pressed her hand against her friend's head. She held him there and prayed over him.
"I felt him breathe," she said.
She felt for his pulse. Amazingly, it was strong.
She turned to Kelly: "We need help now!"
Kelly ran for help and Lavern stayed behind, she said. She did not know where the gunman was.
"Stay with me," she said. "I'm right here."
She told him that God loved him, that his friends loved him, that they wanted him to stay with them.
"We don't want you to go," she told him.
Three security guards arrived. They carried Pandit to an office chair, rolled him to the stairs and strapped him into an evacuation chair used to help disabled people quickly escape.
But it wouldn't roll.
"We lifted, dragged the chair down the stairs."
At every floor, she said, she checked his pulse. It remained strong.
When they got to the second floor, she said, the security guards' radios came to life: "The shooter was on the first floor," she said. "On the west side."
Exactly where they were heading.
They continued downstairs and escaped through a side door, where she said they found a security guard in an unmarked car.
A gunman was on the loose and the security guard was worried about leaving his post. Still, he took Lavern and Pandit into the car and raced off. They made it off the grounds of the navy yard and to a street corner a few blocks away. The security guard needed to get back to his post and asked police who were there to get an ambulance immediately.
Lavern eased her friend to the pavement. His pulse was gone.
Across the street, James Birdsall was having his morning coffee in his office on the 11th floor at Parsons, an engineering company. As he and his colleagues watched the police cars screaming toward the navy yard, Birdsall noticed a man lying down on the street corner below at New Jersey Avenue and M Street.
Birdsall assumed someone had had a heart attack. His company had trained him to use a defibrillator but the man was all the way across the street and there was already a woman giving CPR.
"But I thought, 'If don't do this now, I'm going to look back and say I should have,'" Birdsall said Thursday.
So he grabbed the defibrillator and ran. The 11-floor elevator ride seemed to take especially long. The run through the lobby and across the intersection remain a blur.
Birdsall knelt at Pandit's head while Lavern pumped at his chest. That image was among the first to surface from the navy yard shooting Monday in a photo that was taken by congressional staffer Don Andres and circulated on Twitter by Tim Hogan, a spokesman for congressman Steve Horsford, Nevada.
Almost immediately, there were questions about what it showed. Was it really a shooting victim? If so, how did he get blocks from the scene? There was speculation that someone had a heart attack, unrelated to the chaos blocks away.
But Birdsall saw the gunshot wound to Pandit's head. He attached the defibrillator's two pads to the man's chest.
The machine said not to administer a shock, Lavern said. So she continued giving CPR.
Others came to help and Lavern kept talking to her friend. Birdsall could tell that from the way she kept saying his name that she knew him well.
Within two minutes of being dispatched, an ambulance arrived. Lavern asked to go to the hospital with him but a detective told her she needed to give a police report instead. She removed Pandit's badge and gave it to rescue workers so they would know who he was.
The Associated Press had distributed two photos Andres took on Monday but hours later withdrew the photos until it could be verified they were related to the navy yard shootings. The AP reissued the photos along with this story.
Pandit was pronounced dead on arrival at George Washington University Hospital, where Dr Babak Sarani, the hospital's director of trauma and acute care surgery, called the injury "not survivable."
Lavern, a mother of one from Stafford, Virginia, attended Pandit's funeral on Thursday.
"He was a good friend," she said. "He was the sweetest man."
Her husband, navy lieutenant commander Randall Lavern, said he wasn't surprised at her actions.
"That's my wife," he said. "She's always the one running to help."
Navy Yard reopens as authorities probe shooter's motive, history
By Kyle Eppler, Pete Williams and Erin McClam - NBCNews.com
September 19, 2013
The Washington Navy Yard reopened early Thursday, three days after gunman Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and wounded several others in a shooting rampage at the Washington, D.C., base.
The gates at the Navy installation reopened at 6 a.m. Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Thursday will be a standard work day, excluding Building 197, where the horrific shootings took place, and the base gym, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty told the Associated Press. The gym will be used as a staging area for the FBI to probe Monday's massacre, she added.
Authorities say they are still looking for a motive. Since Alexis carried out the attack Monday at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, signs have emerged of his troubled history, including a military disciplinary record and reports he suffered from depression and paranoia.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that "obviously there were a lot of red flags" in Alexis' past, including reports that he had complained of insomnia and sought treatment at a VA hospital emergency room, and that the department would look into why they were not picked up.
Alexis was purportedly suffering from insomnia during an Aug. 23 emergency room visit to the VA Medical Center in Providence, R.I., where he was given sleep medication and told to follow up with a doctor, according to the AP.
Five days later, he visited the VA Hospital in Washington, where he said he hadn't been able to sleep due to his work schedule, and again had his medication refilled, according to the wire service.
He seemed "alert and oriented" during those visits and claimed that he didn't feel depressed, anxious or prone to violence, the VA said in a statement provided to legislators Wednesday, according to the AP.
But just two weeks before his emergency room stay, Alexis complained to Rhode Island police that people were communicating to him via the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and transmitting microwave vibrations into his body to keep him from falling asleep.
Newport authorities reported the incident to offers at the base security office, Navy officials said, but there was no follow-through because Alexis didn't appear to pose a threat to himself or others at the time, according to the AP.
President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service for the Navy Yard victims Sunday, the White House press secretary said.
The mother of Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter, said Wednesday that she was heartbroken and sorry for the families of the victims and that she was glad he is "in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone."
In a brief statement to a reporter in New York, the woman, Cathleen Alexis, said her son "has murdered 12 people and wounded several others."
"His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims," she said, her voice trembling. "I don't know why he did what he did, and I'll never be able to ask him why. Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that I am glad."
She added: "To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken."
Earlier in the day, a woman whom Aaron Alexis stayed with in Thailand last year said that he was crazy "in a positive way, like funny," and that she was shocked to learn that he had carried out the massacre at the Navy Yard. The spree ended when Alexis was gunned down by officers.
The woman, Om Suthamtewakul, is the sister of a former roommate of Alexis' in the U.S. She told NBC News in an interview that Alexis stayed with her for a month and a half and showed no sign of anger.
"So I can't really believe how he can shoot those people," she said in Thai. "He looked kind of like, you know, bonkers, crazy, in a positive way, like funny, but, so I really can't believe this."
Suthamtewakul said Alexis liked her country, "loved Thai woman" and wanted to go back. She said that she and Alexis went on outings in Bangkok and elsewhere and that they went to massage parlors in the evening.
She said she never saw him show cruelty.
"Every day he has good mood, laughing," she said, "and one time we went to the market together because he understand Thai and he heard one Thai woman saying rude words about him — but he didn't get angry, he laughed and told the woman, 'I understand what you said.'"
Jeff Black, Tracy Connor, Jason Cumming, Jonathan Dienst, Richard Esposito, Courtney Kube, Charles Hadlock, Peter Jeary, Jim Miklaszewski, Andrew Rafferty, Marian Smith, Daniel Arkin and Ali Weinberg of NBC News contributed to this report.
Suspect in Shooting Had Problems With the Law
By Manny Fernandez - The New York Times
September 17, 2013
HOUSTON — Aaron Alexis, 34, the man killed by police officers and identified as the gunman in the deadly rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, served his country as a Navy reservist, had an abiding interest in Buddhism and Thai culture, and had problems with the law, records and interviews show.
In 2004, according to a Seattle police report, Mr. Alexis walked out of his grandmother’s home one morning, pulled a .45-caliber pistol from his waistband and fired three rounds at a construction worker’s car, two at the rear tires and one into the air.
A construction manager told the police he thought Mr. Alexis was frustrated with the parking situation outside the work site. But Mr. Alexis told the police that he had had an anger-fueled blackout and could not remember firing the weapon until about an hour after the episode. He said he was in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks, and described to a detective “how those events had disturbed him,” according to the detective’s report. His father told investigators that Mr. Alexis had problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and had been an “active participant” in rescue attempts on Sept. 11. Mr. Alexis’s father could not be reached for comment Monday.
Anthony Little, Mr. Alexis’s brother-in-law, told reporters Monday in Brooklyn that it had been five years since his wife, Naomi Alexis, had spoken to her brother. “No one saw it coming, no one knew anything, so all of this is just shocking,” he said.
Law enforcement officials said the motive behind the navy yard shooting remained unclear.
Mr. Alexis was born in Queens in 1979 and was representative of the borough’s diversity. He was African-American, grew up in a part of Queens that was home to South Asians, Hispanics and Orthodox Jews, and embraced all things Thai while living in Fort Worth. He worked as a waiter at a Thai restaurant, studied the language and regularly chanted and meditated at Buddhist temples.
From 2007 to 2011, Mr. Alexis was a full-time reservist in the Navy, serving as an aviation electricians’ mate and achieving the rank of petty officer third class. For much of that time, from February 2008 to January 2011, when he left the service, he was assigned to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46, in Fort Worth, Navy officials said. His specialty was fixing electrical systems on airplanes.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said on CNN that Mr. Alexis was in “the ready reserve,” meaning he did not have day-to-day contact with the Navy, but, if called upon, “he would be one of the ones mobilized.” Mr. Alexis was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two standard military honors, but there were indications that he struggled in the Navy.
During his time in the service, he exhibited “a pattern of misbehavior,” Navy officials said, though they declined to elaborate. Upon leaving, he became a Navy contractor. At the time of the shooting, Mr. Alexis worked for a company affiliated with Hewlett-Packard that serviced the Navy’s Internet system, Hewlett-Packard said in a statement. He had been living for weeks in a long-term-stay hotel with colleagues to work on the Navy Yard project, according to a government official.
In 2010, Mr. Alexis was arrested in Fort Worth for discharging a firearm. At the time, Mr. Alexis had been living in an apartment complex called Orion at Oak Hill. His upstairs neighbor called the police after she heard a pop, saw dust fly and noticed holes in her floor and ceiling. She told the police that Mr. Alexis had confronted her in the parking lot about making too much noise, and she felt threatened by him, according to the Fort Worth police report.
Mr. Alexis later told an officer that he had been cleaning his gun while cooking, and that the gun had accidentally discharged. The officer asked him why he did not call the police or check on the resident above him, and he replied that he did not think the bullet went through because he could not see any light through the hole, according to the report. The officer noted that the gun was taken apart and covered in oil.
James Rotter, the father of the woman in the apartment, said the shot came through close to where his daughter had been sitting. She moved out after the episode, and a lawyer advised the family not to press charges.
“How could you prove he did it on purpose when he claimed he was cleaning his gun?” Mr. Rotter said.
In recent years, Mr. Alexis dated a Thai woman and began showing up regularly at Wat Busayadhammavanara, a Buddhist Temple in White Settlement, Tex., a Fort Worth suburb. He had Thai friends, adored Thai food and said he always felt drawn to the culture, said Pat Pundisto, a member of the temple answering the phone there on Monday. He was a regular at Sunday services, intoning Buddhist chants and staying to meditate afterward. On celebrations like the Thai New Year in April, he helped out, serving guests dressed in ceremonial Thai garb the temple provided.
At the temple, he met Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, who went on to open the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in White Settlement in 2011, said the restaurant owner’s cousin, Naree Wilton, 51, in a phone interview. Mr. Alexis helped out at the restaurant in exchange for food and a room in Mr. Suthamtewakul’s house.
There, he played computer games “at the nighttime and all day,” Ms. Wilton said, on one of three computers he kept in his room, driving up the house’s electricity bills. After he got a job fixing computers, the family asked him to help out with utility bills. He rarely paid and borrowed money often, Ms. Wilton said, complaining that his computer company was withholding pay.
Reporting was contributed by Joseph Goldstein, Erica Goode, Nate Schweber and Vivian Yee from New York; Sarah Maslin Nir from Washington; and Lauren D’Avolio from Fort Worth.
Gunman and 12 Victims Killed in Shooting at D.C. Navy Yard
By Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times
September 16, 2013
WASHINGTON — A former Navy reservist killed at least 12 people on Monday in a mass shooting at a secure military facility that led the authorities to lock down part of the nation’s capital — even after the gunman was killed — in a hunt for two other armed men spotted by video cameras, officials said.
But by Monday evening, the federal authorities said they believed the shooting was the act of a lone gunman, identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, who was working for a military subcontractor.
The chaos at the facility, the Washington Navy Yard, 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 Mr. Alexis, 34, a former naval reservist in Fort Worth. Police officers shot Mr. Alexis to death, law enforcement officials said, but not before a dozen people were killed and several others, including a city police officer, were wounded and taken to local hospitals.
Officials said Mr. Alexis drove a rental car to the base and entered using his access as a contractor and shot an officer and one other person outside Building 197, the Sea Systems Command headquarters. Inside, Mr. Alexis made his way to a floor overlooking an atrium and took aim at employees eating breakfast below.
“He was shooting down from above the people,” one law enforcement official said. “That is where he does most of his damage.”
The names of seven of the victims were released late Monday: Michael Arnold, 59; Sylvia Frasier, 53; Kathy Gaarde, 62; John Roger Johnson, 73; Frank Kohler, 50; Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46; and Vishnu Pandit, 61. Officials said names of the other victims would be released after their families had been contacted. All of the victims were believed to be civilians or contractors. No active duty military personnel were killed, said Chief Cathy L. Lanier of Washington.
One victim was shot in the left temple and was pronounced dead within a minute of arriving at George Washington University Hospital. “This injury was not survivable by any stretch,” a hospital official told reporters. “The patient was dead on the way to the hospital.”
Eight people were injured. Three of them were shot, including Officer Scott Williams of the Washington police. The others suffered injuries from falls or complained of chest pains. Officer Williams, who served in the canine unit, underwent several hours of surgery for gunshot wounds to his legs. A second victim suffered a gunshot wound to her shoulder. A bullet grazed a third victim’s head but did not penetrate her skull, according to doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
Three weapons were found on Mr. Alexis: an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol, a senior law enforcement officer said. It was unclear whether he had brought all the guns with him, another law enforcement official said, or if he had taken one or more of them from his victims.
Officials said they were still searching for a motive as they asked the public for help by posting pictures of Mr. Alexis on the F.B.I. Web site. The agency is treating the shooting as a criminal investigation, not one related to terrorism.
Navy officials said late Monday that Mr. Alexis had worked as a contractor in information technology. A spokesman for Hewlett-Packard said Mr. Alexis had been an employee of a company called The Experts, a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract.
Navy officials said Mr. Alexis was given a general discharge in 2011 after exhibiting a “pattern of misbehavior,” which officials declined to detail. The year before, Mr. Alexis was arrested in Fort Worth for discharging a firearm after an upstairs neighbor said he had confronted her in the parking lot about making too much noise, according to a Fort Worth police report.
The police in Seattle, where Mr. Alexis once lived, said Monday that they had arrested him in 2004 for shooting the tires of another man’s vehicle in what Mr. Alexis later described to detectives as an anger-fueled “blackout.”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congressional delegate from the District of Columbia, called the episode “an attack on our city.”
“It’s an attack on our country,” she added.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray called it a “long, tragic day.” President Obama praised the victims of the shooting as patriots.
The tension in the city was heightened for much of the day as the police said they were unsure whether Mr. Alexis had acted alone. Officials said surveillance video of people fleeing the scene of the shooting showed two armed men dressed in different military uniforms and wielding guns. For hours, the police said they believed that there might have been three gunmen and that two of them were on the loose in the city.
The reports of multiple suspects generated confusion across Washington as the authorities offered conflicting messages about any continuing danger. Officials did not move to secure the city, leaving the city’s subway system to operate normally. But out of an “abundance of caution,” Terrance W. Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, put the Senate complex into lockdown after 3 p.m. The Senate had recessed in the early afternoon.
Around the same time, the Washington Nationals postponed a game against the division-leading Atlanta Braves, which had been scheduled for 7 p.m. at Nationals Park, next to the navy yard. The Nationals’ Web site said “Postponed: Tragedy” and notified fans that the teams would play a doubleheader on Tuesday instead.
The city was further shaken Monday evening when someone tossed firecrackers over the fence at the White House, causing loud bangs and prompting a swift and aggressive response from Secret Service agents, who tackled a man in white shorts and a T-shirt on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The morning was drizzly at the navy yard, which sits at one end of the 11th Street Bridge, a major thoroughfare bringing traffic into the city from Maryland.
Within minutes of the first reports of shots, hundreds of police officers and naval officers surrounded the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters, where about 3,000 service members, civilians and contractors work on the Navy’s fleet. Military helicopters circled the facility as police vehicles and other emergency vehicles rushed to the scene. A helicopter lowered a basket to the roof of one of the buildings and appeared to be taking away victims.
The navy yard is protected by a high wall, but someone with official access could have driven a car into the parking lot without having the trunk inspected.
Navy yard employees evacuated from the building described a chaotic situation as an individual armed with a rifle roamed the hallways shooting at people.
Cmdr. Tim Jirus said he was on the fourth floor when he heard gunshots and saw people start running through the office. The commander said he was at the back of the building when a man approached him, asking about the shooting. Moments later, the man was shot in the head.
“We had a conversation for about a minute,” Commander Jirus said.
Asked how he escaped when the man next to him was shot, he said: “Luck. Grace of God. Whatever you want to call it.”
Reporting was contributed by Abby Goodnough, Emmarie Huetteman, Thom Shanker, Sarah Maslin Nir and Joseph Goldstein from Washington, and William K. Rashbaum from New York.