Navy Yard shooting victims had long careers there
WASHINGTON (AP) — A dozen people died in a shooting rampage Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. The shooter also was killed.
It was the deadliest attack at a domestic military installation since November 2009, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas. The stories of the 12 who were gunned down and a police officer who survived are told here.
Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., was a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home, said his uncle, Steve Hunter.
“It would have been the first plane he ever owned,” Hunter said in a telephone interview from Rochester, Mich., Arnold’s hometown. “It’s partially assembled in his basement.”
Hunter said his nephew retired from the Navy as a commander or lieutenant commander and had previously been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He worked at the Navy Yard on a team that designed vessels such as the USS Makin Island, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship used by the Marine Corps.
Arnold and his wife, Jolanda, had been married for more than 30 years, Hunter said. They had two grown sons, Eric and Christopher.
Hunter said Arnold returned to Michigan for Labor Day to visit his 80-year-old mother, Patricia.
“He was a loving son of his mother and his wife, and great father to his kids,” said Hunter. “It’s tragic. How can you get up in the morning and go to work and have that happen? How do bad things like that happen to good people?”
Martin Bodrog, 54, lived on a quiet, tree-shaded cul-de-sac in Annandale, Va., where family and friends gathered Tuesday.
Jeff Prowse, a close friend of Bodrog and family spokesman, said Bodrog was a hardworking Navy veteran and graduate of the Naval Academy who cared deeply about his family, his friends and his country.
“A heart of gold, and one of the most humble, self-effacing guys,” said Prowse, a burly ex-Marine who paused several times to fight back tears as he talked.
“This is just an absolute tragedy for so many reasons,” Prowse said.
Prowse worked with Bodrog at the Pentagon on amphibious vessel programs. He said Bodrog was transferred from the Pentagon to the Navy Yard in January.
Bodrog had been married for 25 years to Melanie, whom he met while she was serving on active duty as a Navy nurse. The couple have three daughters, ages 23, 17 and 16.
Prowse and Bodrog shared a love of the Boston Bruins hockey team and he last spoke to his good friend about a week ago.
“We were actually getting ready to figure out our Bruins schedule for the year,” said Prowse, who retired from the military and now lives in southwest Virginia.
Bodrog was active in his church, where he started a Bible study and helped lead preschool and youth programs, Prowse said. In the winter, Bodrog could be seen in shorts and his Boston Bruins jersey, shoveling the driveways of elderly neighbors.
“The one thing that always stuck out to me about Marty ... was how absolutely driven he was to make sure that the equipment we were giving our Marines and sailors was absolutely the best he could be,” Prowse said. “It was not a job for Marty, it was an absolute calling.”
Sylvia Frasier, 53, of Waldorf, Md., had worked at Naval Sea Systems Command as an information assurance manager since 2000, according to a LinkedIn profile in her name.
Frasier studied at Strayer University, earning a bachelor of science in computer information systems in 2000 and a master’s in information systems in 2002. Her duties at NAVSEA included providing policy and guidance on network security, and assuring that all computer systems operated by the headquarters met Department of Navy and Department of Defense requirements.
She also led efforts “to establish and implement procedures to investigate security violations or incidents,” according to the profile.
Her brother, James Frasier, declined comment Monday night.
Kathleen Gaarde, 63, of Woodbridge, Va., was a financial analyst who supported the organization responsible for the shipyards, her husband, Douglass, wrote in an email to the AP Tuesday.
Douglass Gaarde declined to speak, but wrote that he was unable to sleep.
“Today my life partner of 42 years (38 of them married) was taken from me, my grown son and daughter, and friends,” he wrote. “We were just starting to plan our retirement activities and now none of that matters. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet but I know I already dearly miss her.”
Madelyn Gaarde, of Grand Junction, Colo., who’s married to Douglass Gaarde’s brother, said her sister- and brother-in-law met while he was studying electrical engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Douglass Gaarde, an Illinois native, also worked for the Navy until his retirement last year, his sister-in-law said.
“She was a very gracious person and very welcoming,” she said of Kathleen Gaarde.
Logistics analyst John Roger Johnson, 73, was perhaps most notorious for his bear hugs, his daughter said.
“Rib-crunchers,” Megan Johnson said with a laugh as she remembered her dad Tuesday. “You didn’t have to pay for a chiropractor.”
The Derwood, Md., man — the oldest of the victims in Monday’s shootings — graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. He studied mathematics, but he went into the field of reliability engineering, said Megan Johnson, third-youngest of his four daughters.
Most recently, Johnson worked with TWD & Associates, Inc., where co-workers knew him as “J.J.”
“These were dedicated employees who cared about their work and their colleagues,” TWD president Larry Besterman said Tuesday. “The senseless violence that claimed their lives cannot erase the memory of their friendship and contributions.”
Johnson was an avid saltwater fisherman but, his daughter said, “could not cook to save his life.” He had a place across the road from the ocean at Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for more than 20 years.
Megan Johnson said her father was a “die-hard” Washington Redskins football fan. And while the former youth ice hockey player used to feel the same way about the Baltimore Orioles, she said, “I can tell you, he was switching to the Nats,” referring to the Washington Nationals baseball franchise.
Colleagues have said Johnson would always greet them with a hearty, “Good morning, Buddy. How you doing?” His daughter said that made her smile.
“I think the key thing there was his jolly, happy-go-lucky self,” she said. “An honestly great guy.”
Johnson would have celebrated his 74th birthday on Oct. 7. He also leaves his wife of more than eight years, Judy, and four stepchildren.
Frank Kohler, 50, was a past president of the Rotary Club in Lexington Park, Md. As such, he proudly held the title of “King Oyster” at the annual festival celebrating the region’s signature bivalve the third weekend of each October.
“He walks around with a crown and robe and gives out candy,” said Bob Allen, Kohler’s former boss at Lockheed Martin in southern Maryland. “In fact, he was in charge of the beer stand. I used to have that job and when I left, I handed it off to him.”
The married father of two college-age daughters had driven up to the Washington Navy Yard for a meeting Monday when the shootings occurred, friends told Allen. Allen said Kohler had taken over for him as site manager for the defense contractor.
Kohler was working for Information Concepts in Management, LLC, a subcontractor of TWD & Associates, Inc. He had been on the NAVSEA project just under two years, according to a TWD statement released Tuesday.
He was a 1985 graduate of Pennsylvania’s Slippery Rock University in computer science. Allen said Kohler was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and an avid, though not overly skilled, golfer.
“He could probably shoot in the low 90s,” Allen said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Bradenton, Fla. When Allen retired, Kohler picked his gift — a gold pocket watch with the inscription, “From your friends in Lockheed Martin to help you putt into the future.”
Kohler lived on the water with his wife, Michelle, an employee at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Allen said his friend loved to boat and fish, and went on frequent hunting trips to Canada.
“A great family man, a Christian, and a great friend,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem possible. I mean, you hear about these things all the time ... But when you know somebody, it just makes it all the worse ... It’s a huge loss for southern Maryland.”
Information technology specialist Mary Knight, 51, of Reston, Va., had recently received a big promotion and witnessed the marriage of her older daughter, her mother said.
“I don’t know how this happened,” Liliana DeLorenzo, 76, said from her home in Fayetteville, N.C., Tuesday. “She was a good daughter and a good mother and a hard worker. It’s a loss. It’s a great loss.”
Knight was born in Germany, where 1st Sgt. Frank DeLorenzo, a Green Beret instructor who did a tour in Vietnam, was stationed at the time. When she was about 10, the family was transferred to Fort Bragg, N.C.
Liliana DeLorenzo, a native of Trieste, Italy, said her daughter attended local schools and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“She was a No. 1 student,” the proud mother said. “She always liked to go to school.”
Knight, the oldest of three children, had recently been promoted at work to GS 15 — the top civil service pay grade, her mother said. Last month, her older daughter, Nicole, 25, married a soldier.
DeLorenzo said Knight’s younger daughter, Daniel (she said this was how to spell it), 20, was living with her in Reston while attending college. She said Knight never expressed any concerns about working at the Navy Yard.
Having watched her own husband and other soldiers go off to war, she never dreamed she had to worry about her civilian daughter.
“They survived, these soldiers, Afghanistan, Iraq and all that, and then they get over here and get killed,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t know what to say. I’ve been in shock. We’ve been in shock over such a thing. ...
“You really don’t think about the parents and relatives, what they go through. Now I know.”
Marine engineer and naval architect Vishnu Pandit, 61, was a hard-working Indian immigrant, known for his devotion family, community and his 30-year civilian Navy career.
“He was very dedicated to improving the performance of naval ships and systems,” longtime friend M. Nuns Jain said Tuesday outside the North Potomac, Md., home where Pandit’s family privately mourned. “The only saving grace in this horrible incident is that he died doing what he loved the most in the service of his nation.”
Jain said Pandit, a Mumbai native, earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering in India in 1973 before coming to America and earning a degree in naval architecture from the University of Michigan.
He said Pandit sailed with the U.S. Merchant Marine before joining the Naval Sea Systems Command, headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard.
Married to his wife Anjali since 1978, Pandit had two sons and a granddaughter, Jain said.
“He was a real family man and he loved dogs,” including the family’s golden retriever, Bailey, Jain said.
Neighbor Satish Misra said Pandit was on the home owners association board in their leafy subdivision, and active in the local Hare Krishna Hindu temple.
“He was a gentle man. I really loved him and his family,” Misra said.
Pandit’s family issued a statement thanking people for their condolences, thoughts and prayers.
“Our family is dealing with the loss of a kind and gentle man, and kindly requests that our privacy be respected,” the statement read.
Kenneth Proctor, 46, worked as a civilian utilities foreman at the Navy Yard, his ex-wife, Evelyn Proctor, said. He spent 22 years working for the federal government, Evelyn Proctor said.
The Waldorf, Md., woman spoke to Kenneth early Monday morning before he left for work at the Navy Yard. It was his regular call. The high school sweethearts talked every day, even after they divorced this year after 19 years of marriage, and they shared custody of their two teenage sons.
She was in shock about her ex-husband’s death.
“He just went in there in the morning for breakfast,” Proctor said Monday night of the building where the shooting took place. “He didn’t even work in the building. It was a routine thing for him to go there in the morning for breakfast, and unfortunately it happened.”
Proctor said she tried to call her ex-husband throughout the day and drove to the Navy Yard on Monday afternoon, fearing the worst. After waiting for about three hours alongside other relatives concerned about their loved ones, she was informed around 8 p.m. that he was among the dead. Officials did not detail the circumstances of his shooting, she said.
The Proctors married in 1994 and divorced this year. Their older son, Kenneth Proctor Jr., 17, enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school this spring and is in basic training in Oklahoma. Their younger son, Kendull Proctor, is 15.
“We were still very close. It wasn’t a bitter divorce,” Evelyn Proctor said. “We still talked every day, and we lived 10 minutes away from each other.”
Kenneth Proctor was born and raised in Charles County, Md., where he lived until his death.
“He loved the Redskins. Loved his kids — a very loving, caring, gentle person. His kids meant a lot to him,” Evelyn Proctor said.
Gerald L. Read’s son-in-law, Michael Giffin, said his family was not ready to speak yet about the 58-year-old’s death.
“We’re still trying to gather our thoughts,” said Giffin, who is married to Read’s daughter, Jessica. Read was from Alexandria, Va.
Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, was a passionate protector, both in his security work and in the way he treated his daughters during game-day trips to M&T Field to root for his beloved Baltimore Ravens.
“He was all about protecting us,” said daughter Megan outside her mother’s Westminster home. She remembered her father guardedly eyeing other spectators as they climbed to their upper-tier seats, making sure she was safe in the roaring crowd.
Ridgell, a former Maryland State Police trooper, was working for a private security contractor at the Washington Navy Yard. Family members said they didn’t know details about Ridgell’s death.
His children and estranged wife, Tracey, say they want him remembered as a loving, funny and patriotic man who found satisfaction as a security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan; as a drummer in the all-volunteer Baltimore Colts Marching Band before the Ravens era; and as a successful softball coach to all three daughters, Heather, 33, Megan, 19, and Maddi, 17.
“He was so much more than a shooting victim. He was an amazing person,” Megan said.
Ridgell, a native of Brooklyn Park, near Baltimore, was a state trooper from 1983 to 2000, when he resigned at the rank of corporal, spokesman Sgt. Marc Black said.
He did contract security work overseas, according to family members and information Ridgell provided to the rental agent at a Westminster apartment complex where he lived after separating from his wife about two years ago.
The rental agent, Casey Perryman, said Ridgell’s love for his children and his country was apparent.
“I think it’s just a tragedy that he lost his life doing something he enjoyed so much,” she said. “He was all about serving and protecting the people of the United States.”
Metropolitan Police Department Officer Scott Williams was shot multiple times in the legs but survived.
After visiting Williams, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said he has some “pretty serious injuries” and is “pretty uncomfortable” but “in good spirits.”
Williams is an officer in the K9 division. He underwent surgery Monday, and before he did, he wanted to call his mother, according to Janis Orlowski, the chief medical officer of MedStar Washington Hospital Center where the officer was recovering Tuesday.
Orlowski initially said Williams had bone and blood vessel damage and there was “concern” about whether he would be able to walk again. But she said Williams, who she estimated to be in his late 40s, was in fair and stable condition.
Lanier also said she was sure Williams would walk again.
“I’m real confident that he not only will walk again but probably will outrun most of us once again,” she said.
Associated Press writers Amanda Kell, Ben Nuckols, Allen G. Breed, Emery P. Dalesio, Stacy A. Anderson, David Dishneau, Randall Chase and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.