WASHINGTON (AP) – A former Navy man opened fire Monday morning inside a building at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard, spraying bullets at office workers in the cafeteria and the halls, authorities said. Thirteen people were killed, including the gunman.
Investigators said they had not established a motive for the rampage, which unfolded about 8:20 a.m. in the heart of the nation’s capital, less than 4 miles from the White House and 2 miles from the Capitol.
As for whether it may have been a terrorist attack, Mayor Vincent Gray said: “We don’t have any reason to think that at this stage.” But he said the possibility had not been ruled out.
It was the deadliest shooting rampage at a U.S.-based military installation since Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas. He was convicted last month and sentenced to death.
The FBI took charge of the investigation and identified the gunman killed in the attack as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas. He died after a running gunbattle with police, investigators said.
A federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said Alexis was believed to have gotten into the Navy Yard by using someone else’s identification card. But Navy officials said it was not yet clear how he got onto the base.
In addition to those killed, more than a dozen people were hurt, including a police officer and two female civilians who were shot and wounded. They were all expected to survive.
The Washington Navy Yard is a sprawling labyrinth of buildings and streets protected by armed guards and metal detectors, and employees have to show their IDs at doors and gates to come and go. About 20,000 people work there.
The rampage took place at Building 197, the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, which buys, builds and maintains ships, submarines and combat systems. About 3,000 people work at headquarters, many of them civilians.
Witnesses described a gunman opening fire from a fourth-floor overlook, aiming down on people in the cafeteria on the main floor. Others said a gunman fired at them in a third-floor hallway.
Police would not give any details on the gunman’s weaponry, but witnesses said the man they saw had a long gun – which can mean a rifle or a shotgun.