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Navy Yard Shooter's Mother Speaks Out As Inquiry Continues

Sep 18, 2013
Originally published on September 18, 2013 6:01 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Officials in Washington are answering hard questions today in the aftermath of Monday's mass shooting at a Naval office complex. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered a review of access and security procedures to U.S. military bases. Hagel also said there were red flags about gunman Aaron Alexis that people somehow missed

NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Aaron Alexis gained access to the Washington Navy Yard with a valid pass. He had a security clearance, working for a Navy contractor. He also had a record that included at least two run-ins with police over his use of firearms, and an increasingly troubled mental state that included hearing voices and paranoia that people were following him. Given that, Defense Secretary Hagel said it was time to take a close look at the military's own security.

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL: First, I directed a review of physical security and access procedures at all DOD installations worldwide. The highest responsibilities leaders have is to take care of their people. And our people deserve safe and secure workplaces wherever they are.

NAYLOR: Hagel said obviously something went wrong at the Navy Yard. A senior Defense official told reporters that someone with a secret security clearance, as Alexis had, could keep that clearance for 10 years, unless derogatory information comes up. But investigators would have to find that kind of information, it does not automatically show up.

Audio from police dispatchers released today paints a frightening picture of Monday's shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We have an officer down, Building 197 on the third floor. Also a female shot on the roof of the Building 1333, Isaac Hall - female on the roof.

NAYLOR: The response to the shootings is also under review. The BBC reported today that one nearby police unit was prevented from responding to the Navy Yard. A U.S. Capitol Police team, armed with high powered rifles, was in the area Monday morning and showed up at the Navy Yard. They were asked by Washington, D.C. police to assist in tracking down the shooter. But according to the BBC, the team was told by their watch commander to leave the scene. A Capitol Police spokeswoman says an investigation has been opened into the allegations.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Aaron Alexis' mother, Cathleen Alexis, read a statement to reporters from her home.

CATHLEEN ALEXIS: His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims. 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. To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.

NAYLOR: Among the victims of Mondays violence was a handyman from Washington, whose 14-year-old son had been killed in an episode of violence on a D.C. street four years ago. The White House says President Obama will attend a memorial service on Sunday for the victims.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.