The alleged gunman in the Washington Navy Yard shooting rampage had an honorable discharge from the Navy despite a "pattern of misconduct" -- and not a general discharge that could have raised doubts with his employers doing work at the Navy Yard, Navy officials said Tuesday.
Numerous initial reports said that 34-year-old Aaron Alexis had a general discharge, but a Navy official, speaking on background, said that former Navy reservist Alexis had applied for and received an honorable discharge under an early enlistment program on Jan. 31, 2011.
The Navy had started processing Alexis for a general discharge, given to servicemembers whose performance is satisfactory but considered below standards expected for duty and conduct, the Navy official said.
Alexis behavior before and after enlistment on May 5, 2007, through detachment on Jan. 31, 2011, "included a pattern of misconduct," and the most serious incidents of misconduct "were handled through the civil justice system," the Navy official said.
This was a reference to his arrest in Seattle in 2004 in a gun incident involving his shooting out the tires of a Honda Accord with a Glock handgun. Alexis was not formally charged in that case. He also was not charged in a September 2010 incident in Fort Worth, Tex., when the handgun he had discharged in his apartment and the shot went through the ceiling into a neighbor's apartment.
Although Alexis was considered for a general discharge for misconduct, "the evidence did not support that" and he was given an honorable discharge, the Navy official said.
The honorable discharge would have been noted on Alexis' DD-214 form, the record of service that can be requested by employers.
Alexis had a security clearance and an identity card for access to the Navy Yard through a firm called "The Experts," a subcontractor for Hewlett-Packard, and he had regularly been doing computer technician work at the Navy Yard, law enforcement officials said.
A main focus of the investigation of the shootings that took the lives of 12 victims centered on how Alexis allegedly managed to get what was believed to be a shotgun past the security gates at the Navy Yard and open fire inside Building 197, the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command.
"I don't think we know that," the FBI's Valerie Parlave said. "The investigation is still very active," said Parlave, the assistant FBI director in charge of the District of Columbia Field Office.
At a news briefing with Washinton, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier and other officials, Parlave confirmed that Alexis "had a valid pass to gain entry to the building" housing the Naval Sea Systems Command where about 3,000 workers were normally present on a weekday.
Parlave said that Alexis had arrived in the Washington area on Aug. 25 and had been staying at local hotels, most recently a Residence Inn in the District.
Both Parlave and Lanier declined comment on what they may have learned from Alexis' medical records or whether he had records for psychiatric treatment, and they also cautioned against drawing conclusions on the weapons Alexis used.
Parlave said investigators believe Alexis came to the Navy Yard with a shotgun. She said she had no information that Alexis may have gained access to an AR-15 automatic after entering Building 197 but added that Alexis may have acquired a handgun, possibly from one of the two police officers who were wounded when they confronted Alexis.
Lanier said police initially focused on the possibility that there might be two accomplices based on reports that later proved to be unfounded. "We erred on the side of caution," Lanier said. "We had information we could not dismiss."
Lanier said she could not give a timeline on the shootings but estimated that the incident lasted more than a half-hour "from start to finish," when Alexis was shot dead by a Metro police officer and a Park Service police officer. "There's no question he would've kept shooting" if the officers hadn't stopped him, Lanier said.
Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said his own investigation was proceeding on the preliminary basis that Alexis acted alone and would focus on two key questions: "What caused the individual to kill so many" and "What could've been done to prevent this tragedy."
Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said one of his main concerns was the method of access to the Navy Yard.
"It really is hard to believe that someone with a record as checkered as this man could conceivably get, you know, clearance to get credentials to be able to get on the base," Gray told CNN. "Obviously, 12 people have paid the ultimate price for whatever was done to have this man on base," Gray said.
Much like other military installations, civilian and military personnel working at the Navy Yard show ID cards and are waved through by armed security personnel whether on foot or driving. Random searches of bags and cars are performed periodically.
The incident at the Navy Yard was the worst at a military installation since Nov. 5, 2009, when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 and wounded 30 by firing into a group of soldiers at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Tex. Hasan has been convicted by a court martial and sentenced to death.
The shootings at the Navy Yard prompted immediate calls for a review of base security procedures. Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called for the Defense Department to release results of an inspector general's audit of the system for controlling the access of civilian workers to military bases.
The Navy may have "implemented an unproven system in order to cut costs," Turner said in a letter to Lynne Halbrooks, the Pentagon's acting inspector general.
Washington police on Tuesday released a list of the 12 victims, all of them civilian Navy employees or contractors. The victims were:
Michael Arnold, 59; Martin Bodrog, 54; Arthur Daniels, 51; Sylvia Frasier, 53; Kathy Gaarde, 62; John Roger Johnson, 73; Frank Kohler, 50; Mary Francis Knight, 51; Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46; Vishnu Pandit, 61; Gerald L. Read, 58; and Richard Michael Ridgell, 52.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to order a review of security at all military bases worldwide, and the announcement could come as early as Wednesday, according to defense officials cited by CNN.
Earlier Tuesday, Hagel, joined by Mayor Gray and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laid a wreath to the victims at the Navy Memorial off Pennsylvania Ave. in the District. A Navy bugler played "Taps" to end the five-minute ceremony and Hagel made no comment as he left.