Texas News
3:31 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

UPDATE: Suspected Shooter Never Showed Anger, Fort Worth Temple Members Say

Update at 4:22 p.m.: Just six weeks ago, Aaron Alexis called police in Newport, R.I., from his hotel room, saying that he was “hearing voices” and that three men had been sent to harass him. NPR has obtained a police report about the call made on Aug. 7. Alexis told police that the three men were going to keep him awake by talking to him and “sending vibrations into his body,” the report said. Alexis told police that he had moved from one hotel to a Navy base and then to a third hotel because the voices were following him.

Update at 3:29 p.m.: The man who on Monday described the suspected Navy Yard gunman as his best friend filed a criminal mischief report against Aaron Alexis over the summer, accusing him of tampering with his car, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting. The man suspected that Alexis had put something in his gas tank to damage his vehicle and that the two had been having problems.

Update at 1:25 p.m. Tuesday: Members of a Fort Worth Buddhist temple say that Aaron Alexis never showed anger or aggression and was trying to make his life better. He was training to become a monk.

Wat Budsaya temple members told KERA’s Courtney Collins this afternoon that they’re shocked by what happened Monday, when Alexis allegedly shot and killed 12 people at Washington’s Navy Yard.

Alexis attended the Wat Budsaya temple up to three times a week in 2010 and 2011, members say. He was lonely, but looking to make friends. He learned Thai and chanted.

They said that they would have helped Alexis if they knew he needed it.

Tonight, around 7:30, members will gather at the temple to pray. Courtney will have more details on her temple visit in a KERA story during "All Things Considered," which starts at 4 p.m.

Update at 12:24 p.m.: Law enforcement officials say that Aaron Alexis used a shotgun and two handguns, but not an AR-15 assault rifle. Two officials told The Associated Press that an AR-15 was found at the scene. One of them said Tuesday that Alexis did not use that weapon in the shootings. It was not clear whether the rifle belonged to a law enforcement or security officer responding to Monday's Washington Navy Yard gun battle. The official says that Alexis used a shotgun he had purchased and two handguns that he took away from law enforcement officers at the scene.

Update at 11:35 a.m.: U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said. Alexis had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for mental problems. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was continuing. The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit. Family members told investigators that Alexis was being treated for mental issues.

Update at 11:24 a.m. Tuesday: U.S. officials say that Aaron Alexis had a string of misconduct problems during his nearly three years in the military, but he received an honorable discharge, The Associated Press reported. Alexis, 34, had bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and was sometimes absent from work without authorization. The offenses occurred mainly when he was serving in Fort Worth from 2008-2011, and were enough to prompt Navy officials to grant him an early discharge through a special program for enlisted personnel.

Update at 5:14 p.m. Monday: Aaron Alexis liked guns and told folks he was a good shooter, but was otherwise an easygoing guy who wanted a better life. That's according to his friend, Michael Ritrovato, who met with the media this afternoon. Ritrovato never saw Alexis with a gun and never saw him shoot.

Ritrovato said he’s surprised to hear that Alexis is suspected in the Navy Yard shootings. “Aaron didn’t seem like the kind of person who would do something like this,” Ritrovato told KERA’s Stella M. Chavez and other media gathered outside the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in White Settlement, where Alexis was once a waiter.

The FBI posted these photos of suspected gunman Aaron Alexis after his death Tuesday.
The FBI posted these photos of suspected gunman Aaron Alexis after his death Tuesday.
Credit FBI

  “He wanted to do better and from what I understood he was doing better the last time I spoke to him,” Ritrovato said.

Update at 4:42 p.m.: Aaron Alexis, the suspected gunman in the Navy Yard shootings, had worked as a waiter and deliveryman at Happy Bowl Thai in White Settlement, said Sandy Guerra-Cline, a copy editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Happy Bowl customer. Alexis had recently visited Thailand and had been to Japan with a computer defense contractor, where he worked in information technology, Guerra-Cline told the newspaper.

“He is not a guy that talked about guns or talked about anything violent,” Guerra-Cline said. “As a matter of fact, my best memories of him were of him sitting at one of the tables at Happy Bowl trying to teach himself Thai.”

Watch Guerra-Cline discuss Alexis:

Update at 4:32 p.m.: The FBI has released this bulletin that seeks information about Aaron Alexis.

Update at 4:15 p.m.: In the Fort Worth area, Aaron Alexis visited a Buddhist temple to meditate, and also helped out at the temple, The Washington Post reports. Somsak Srisan, who was Alexis' landlord, said he had met Alexis at a temple two or three years ago and offered to rent him a two-bedroom bungalow behind the Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center.

Srisan told The Post that Alexis lived there for a year and didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and never missed a rent payment, which was $600 a month. Srisan said he doesn’t know why Alexis left his job at the base.

“I asked him, ‘Why you quit the job with the government?” Srisan said. “He said 'Somebody doesn’t like me.'”

Many members of the community gathered at the temple to discuss what happened.

“They don’t believed it that he could kill 12 people like that,” Srisan told the newspaper.

Update at 3:53 p.m.: The Navy says that Aaron Alexis, the suspected gunman, had once worked for the fleet logistics support squadron No. 46, which is in Fort Worth. Alexis, 34, was a full-time reservist from 2007 to 2011, but left the Navy on Jan. 31, 2011, as a petty officer 3rd class. It's not immediately clear why he left. Alexis worked in Fort Worth from 2008 until he left the Navy. The Navy says his home of record was New York City. Meanwhile, the death toll in the Navy Yard shootings has climbed to 13.

Update at 3:41 p.m.: Aaron Alexis' former roommate, Oui Sathamtewakul, told WFAA-TV that he last worked at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. He left the Navy either two or three years ago, Sathamtewakul said.

Update at 3:39 p.m.: The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office released a statement saying that Aaron Alexis was arrested Sept. 4, 2010, by Fort Worth police on accusations that he recklessly discharged a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor.

Alexis was cleaning a gun in his apartment when it accidentally went off, the statement said. A bullet entered an upstairs apartment. No one was injured.

There were no signs that Alexis had committed recklessness under Texas law and no case was filed.

Update at 3:30 p.m. Fort Worth police arrested Aaron Alexis in September 2010 for discharging a firearm.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a copy of the report here.

Update at 3:23 p.m.: A hospital official says a police officer and two civilians wounded in the Navy Yard shootings are expected to survive. The officer was still in surgery to treat gunshot wounds to his lower extremities. A second victim has a shoulder wound. The third victim was shot in the head, but the bullet did not penetrate her skull, the hospital's chief operating officer said.

Update at 3:15 p.m., with original story: The suspected gunman in the Navy Yard shootings has been identified as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old from Fort Worth with a concealed-carry permit, NPR has confirmed.

Alexis has at least one "charge of unlawful discharge of a firearm," and has a law enforcement history, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

Alexis enlisted in the Navy in May 2007 and left in January 2011, NPR reports. It's not clear what type of discharge that Alexis received. He had been working as a contractor.

At least 12 people have died, including the gunman, in the shootings in Washington, D.C. Shots were fired on the grounds of the yard, a heavily secured military installation in southeast D.C., around 8:20 a.m. Eastern time.

Back in Texas, Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of Happy Bowl Thai in White Settlement, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Alexis was his “best friend.”

“He lived with me three years,” Suthamtewakul told the newspaper this afternoon. “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.”

President Obama called the shooting “a cowardly act” on “men and women who were going to work, doing their jobs, protecting all of us."

He called the victims “patriots.”

It was unclear how many shooters were involved. The D.C. police chief initially said that authorities were looking for two other potential shooters, but city officials later said one had been located and cleared, The Washington Post reported.

Washington residents have been on high alert throughout the day. Senate buildings were temporarily locked down. The Washington Nationals have canceled tonight’s game with Atlanta Braves due to the shootings.

Stay tuned to KERA and NPR for continuing coverage.

The Washington Post is covering the shootings, too. Here's the latest from The New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.