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US gunman: Buddhist interests, flashes of rage

September 17, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gunman who killed 12 people before being shot dead by police in a military complex in the heart of Washington is being described as a young man with an interest in Buddhism and flashes of rage. Officials on Tuesday said he had serious mental issues but was not stripped of his security clearance.

Aaron Alexis’ motive in Monday’s rampage remained a mystery. U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that he had paranoia and a sleep disorder and was hearing voices in his head.

The officials said there has been no connection to international or domestic terrorism, and investigators have found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was continuing.

Officials have said Alexis, a 34-year-old contract employee on a Navy project, used a valid pass to get into the Washington Navy Yard, where 18,000 people work, and started shooting. Witnesses described a gunman firing down on the cafeteria from an upper-floor overlook. Three people were wounded.

Alexis carried three weapons in the attack: a shotgun and two handguns that he took from a police officer at the scene, according to two federal law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

The attack was unlikely to lead to tighter gun controls. Measures proposed during national outrage over a school shooting in December that killed 20 children failed this year in Congress. “Yet another mass shooting,” President Barack Obama said Monday. It was at least the seventh mass shooting of his presidency.

But the rampage is likely to raise more questions about the background checks done on contract employees and others who are issued U.S. security clearances — an issue that came up this year with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, an IT employee with a government contractor.

At the time of the shooting, Alexis was an employee with The Experts, a company that was a Defense Department subcontractor on a Navy-Marine Corps computer project, authorities said.

The U.S. law enforcement officials said Alexis had been treated since August by the federal Veterans Administration, and family members told investigators that he was being treated for his mental issues.

The Navy had not declared Alexis mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance that he had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.

In the past, Alexis had complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination and had several incidents with law enforcement, including two shootings.

Alexis had been a full-time Navy reservist from 2007 to early 2011, the Navy said. U.S. officials said he had a string of misconduct problems during that time, but he received an honorable discharge.

The officials said Alexis had incidents of insubordination and disorderly conduct and was sometimes absent from work without authorization. The offenses were enough to prompt Navy officials to grant him an early discharge through a special program for enlisted personnel.

A convert to Buddhism who grew up in New York City, Alexis had had shooting incidents in 2004 and 2010 in Fort Worth and Seattle and was ticketed for disorderly conduct after being thrown out of an Atlanta nightclub in 2008.

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Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.

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