No one saw it coming yesterday as Aaron Alexis, a Navy reservist mass-murdered 12 civilians at Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in Washington. According to a report by Fox News, Alexis “earned rave reviews from his superiors during his time in the service.” The records were obtained by the news agency and his records with the Navy were nothing but positive.
But yesterday, he gunned down 12 civilian workers as they were getting ready for work in the cafeteria early in the morning. During his 2007-2011 stint as a full-time Navy reservist, Aaron Alexis was described as an "eager trainee" with "unlimited potential," who displayed a "get it done" attitude in the records uncovered by Fox News.
The Navy's final evaluation of Aaron Alexis said, he was a "talented technician" who meticulously carried out his duties as an aviation electrician's mate, working on aircraft electrical systems. He even volunteered his free time to an Atlanta Food Bank distributing food to needy individuals in the metro Atlanta area, the report said. He seemed like a good individual who had everything going for him.
A box on the Navy review was checked "must promote” and the report went on to say Alexis will be “a valuable asset to any civilian organization.” So how does such a good man kill 12 people Monday at a military facility in Washington?
As details emerge on the gunman, we see there was a dark side to the 34 year old Navy reservist. The evaluations were very different from the man, who in police reports, show a very different picture of Alexis. He apparently had a lengthy arrest record, and a pattern of harassing neighbors and strangers. In a 2004 Seattle police report, Alexis shot out the tires of a construction worker's car.
In 2010, he shot a gun through his ceiling and into the apartment of a female neighbor who lived above him. She told police, she'd had run-ins before with Alexis, and was terrified of him. Alexis was arrested in a DeKalb County, Georgia nightclub for disorderly conduct a few months later. In 2009, Alexis got his first negative review, based at least in part, on the Georgia arrest. But later that year he appealed the punishment and won. The Fox News report says the violation “was essentially expunged from his record”, one Navy official said.
There are also reports by the Washington Post are saying Alexis had a history of mental illness and was treated at two Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals after saying he was hearing “voices” in his head. On Aug. 7, while on a trip to Newport, Alexis called police to his hotel room and told them he was being followed by three people who were keeping him awake “by talking to him and sending vibrations into his body,” according to a police report.
Alexis was clearly troubled and had serious personal struggles. Should we blame the Navy for something that no one could have predicted? Is there a deeper issue that we see happening in our society?