The family of a woman killed during a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in September is seeking $37.5 million from the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
WASHINGTON - Investigators focused Thursday on the erratic behavior of a former U.S. Navy reservist who law enforcement officials say had reported hearing voices before he shot dead 12 people at a military base in Washington this week. The national conversation turned once again to mental health, and to gun control.
Monday's rampage lasted more than 30 minutes, unusually long for a mass shooting, and the Capitol Police, which protects members of Congress and Congressional buildings, has ordered an investigation into the force's response. Reports say a tactical response team arrived within minutes and was told by a supervisor to relax its state of alert. The base is less than three miles (4 kilometers) from the Capitol.
If the reports are accurate, "It would be an unbearable failure," Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said in an email.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered two reviews of military security and employee screening programs, acknowledging that "a lot of red flags" may have been missed in the background check of 34-year-old Aaron Alexis.
Alexis, who entered the base with a valid security badge, was killed in a shootout with police.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Alexis visited two hospitals in the weeks before the shooting but denied that he was depressed or had thoughts of harming himself or others.
Alexis complained of insomnia during an Aug. 23 emergency room visit to a VA Medical Center. He was given sleep medication and advised to follow up with a doctor. He made a similar visit five days later to the VA hospital in Washington. His medication was refilled.
Alexis appeared "alert and oriented," the VA said in a statement presented to lawmakers.
Two weeks before his ER visit, he complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep. Navy officials said the police reported the incident to officers at the local base security office, but nothing more was done because he did not appear to be a threat.
Despite his past incidents with police over his gun use, Alexis maintained his security clearance as he arrived in Washington in late August for a job as an information technology employee at a defense-related computer company.
Alexis had been a full-time Navy reservist from 2007 to early 2011, and a Navy spokesman said his security clearance, at the "secret level," was good for 10 years from when he got it.
On Monday morning, he brought with him a legally obtained shotgun on which the cryptic messages of "better off this way" and "my ELF weapon" were scrawled, according to a law enforcement document reviewed by The Associated Press. The meaning of those words wasn't immediately clear.
Alexis's mother said Wednesday she does not know why her son opened fire.
The shotgun was brought into the building disassembled and pieced together by Alexis once inside, according to a law enforcement official and a senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
That firearm would not be covered under a previously proposed weapons ban supported by the White House.
The Navy Yard was set to return to mostly normal operations Thursday.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Kevin Freking, Lolita C. Baldor, Laurie Kellman, Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.
The Navy is considering an extensive redesign of the Washington Navy Yard building where 12 workers were gunned down last month.
Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday to celebrate the life of a federal worker and lifelong Washington Redskins fan who was gunned down at the Washington Navy Yard last week.
The FBI says there is no indication that the Navy Yard shooter targeted any specific individuals when he opened fire inside a building, killing 12 people.
President Barack Obama on Sunday memorialized the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting by urging Americans not to give up on a transformation in gun laws that he argued are to blame for an epidemic of violence. "There is nothing inevitable about it -- it comes about because of decisions we make or fail to make," Obama said.
Investigators focused Thursday on the erratic behavior of a former U.S. Navy reservist who law enforcement officials say had reported hearing voices before he shot dead 12 people at a military base in Washington this week.
Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old military contractor and former Navy reservist, apparently managed to exploit seams in the nation's patchwork of complicated gun laws designed to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
At the U.S. Navy Memorial, in church and on the baseball field, the nation's capital paused Tuesday to mourn the 12 people killed in a shooting rampage at one of the oldest military installations.
The former Navy reservist who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been hearing voices and was undergoing treatment in the weeks before the shooting rampage, but was not stripped of his security clearance, officials said Tuesday.
A dozen people died in a shooting rampage Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. Early Tuesday, the stories of some of those who died started to surface.