WASHINGTON — On the surface, Aaron Alexis’ four-year stint in the Navy appears to have been routine.
But as word spread Monday that Alexis is suspected of gunning down a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard here, Navy officials who asked not to be identified said the 34-year-old veteran had a pattern of misconduct.
What may have caused Alexis to go on a shooting spree Monday morning remained a mystery to FBI and Navy officials, as well as acquaintances of the quiet man who split his most recent years between New York, Texas and Washington State.
Valerie Parlave, chief of the FBI’s D.C. field division, appealed for the public’s help to assist in providing information about the shooter’s actions and movements prior to the attack. The FBI posted his photographs on its website.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told CNN that Alexis was serving as an information technology contractor at the time of the shooting. He had enlisted in the Navy in 2007 and rose to the rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class.
From 2008 to 2011, Alexis served with the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron in Fort Worth. He lived in that area and was arrested at least once in 2010 for firing a gun through the ceiling of his apartment. He told police it had been an accident.
Seattle police released details late Monday of another shooting incident from 2004 in which Alexis shot the rear tires of a vehicle owned by a construction worker doing work in his neighborhood. Alexis told police he had an anger-fueled “blackout” but added that he felt he had been “mocked” by the workers and “disrespected” by the workers.
Alexis also told police he was present during “the tragic events of September 11, 2001? and described “how those events had disturbed him.” Detectives later spoke with Alexis’ father in New York, who told police Alexis had anger-management problems associated with PTSD, and that he had been an active participant in rescue attempts on 9-11.
Alexis lived most recently in New York City, the Navy said. He had relatives in Georgia and Seattle, Wash., according to public reports. He last voted in Queens, N.Y., in 2000.
Two law enforcement agents checked on a third-floor walkup apartment in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn Monday night where some of Alexis’ relatives had lived. They would not answer questions.
A third-floor resident who gave his name only as “Barry” said the agents asked him about a 60-year-old woman related to the suspected gunman. An online address database showed that Cathleen Alexis, 60, and Naomi Alexis, 31, may once have resided in the adjacent apartment.
Shirley Johnson, a resident who said she had lived on the building’s second floor since 1984, said she believed the Alexis family had moved out at least several months ago.
The Forth Worth Star-Telegram located a self-described “best friend” of Alexis on Monday who expressed surprise at the news and said Alexis had been working for a computer contractor.
“He lived with me three years,” Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of Happy Bowl Thai, told the newspaper. “I don’t think he’d do this. He has a gun. but I don’t think he’s that stupid. He didn’t seem aggressive to me.”