Today’s shooting at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C. has once again produced the kind of reporting that leaves the public more confused than informed, with CBS and NBC having to retract one report that tentatively identified the suspect, and just about everybody having to back away from initial reports of multiple gunmen.
As this column was being prepared, it appeared there was a single shooter, identified by fingerprints as Aaron Alexis, 34, recently from Fort Worth, Tex. But then the local NBC affiliate said there may be a second gunman, but that has not been verified.
It was also reported Monday afternoon that Alexis once lived in Seattle. While living there, he had some minor run-ins with the law, the Seattle Times said. He shot out the tires on a car at a construction site in 2004, but was never prosecuted for it.
The body count now appears to be 12 innocent victims and the gunman, according to Mayor Vincent Gray. Alexis was apparently “neutralized” by police in a gun battle. There were conflicting reports that he came to the facility heavily armed, or that he showed up with a shotgun and took a 9mm pistol and an AR-15 rifle from police he shot, or that he brought the shotgun and rifle, and grabbed the pistol from a security officer he shot.
Jackie Bensen, a reporter with the local NBC affiliate, seemed to go the extra mile to learn the details about how Alexis was armed. Her sources, apparently reviewing security videos, reportedly said he had a shotgun with which he shot a security guard. He took the guard’s 9mm service pistol and a spare magazine, then hid in the building and apparently opened fire on the first response team, wounding one officer in the legs. It is not clear from that point whether the gunman had a semi-auto rifle with him, or he retrieved a rifle dropped by the officer he shot. That will ultimately be sorted out.
Fox News and other agencies reported that while living in Texas, he fired a pistol at his residence and apparently had some "anger management" issues.
In the midst of this, President Barack Obama made a remark that was quickly seized upon by critics as an indication he was trying to play politics. Remarking to reporters, the president said, “We’re confronting yet another mass shooting.”
Some critics are suggesting that this makes it sound as though there are mass shootings all the time, all over the map. Many in the firearms community wasted no time explaining that this shooting happened in a so-called “gun free zone.” Virtually all such shootings do occur in places where privately-owned firearms are prohibited, even if someone is licensed to carry.
No motive has been established for the shooting and the suspect reportedly used an identification badge belonging to a former Navy Yard worker. Alexis, according to NBC News, served in the Navy from 2007 to 2011.
Jackson is the suspect who surrendered to Seattle police at gunpoint Friday night after allegedly stabbing Shoreline Community College Professor Troy Wolff, 46 and his companion, Kristin Ito. Wolff died at the scene and Ito was rushed to the hospital.
The suspect, according to sources, stayed at the scene after the incident.