That’s been the pattern in one mass killing after another. In the latest rampage, discharged Navy Petty Officer Aaron Alexis, 34, raised plenty of red flags before he shot to death 12 people and wounded three others Monday. For what motive, investigators have not determined.
The first red flag goes back to when Alexis enlisted in the Navy in 2007. He was accepted even though he had been arrested three years earlier in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a car parked at a construction site next to the house where he lived. He said he “had an anger-fueled ‘blackout,’” according to the police report.
Red flags kept popping up after Alexis enlisted. Although he eventually was promoted to petty officer third class as an aviation electrician’s mate and received a couple of service medals, he was cited for an array of misconduct including insubordination, absence without leave and disorderly behavior, Navy officials confirmed to the AP.
Some of the worst offenses apparently occurred in 2008 when Alexis worked at Unit VR 46 of Naval Air Station Atlanta. He was arrested in DeKalb County and held two nights in jail, a Navy official told the Washington Post. Alexis was cited for disorderly conduct after damaging furniture at a nightclub and using profanity on the street. The AP said his rank was reduced because of the incident and he had to forfeit half his pay for two months but appealed, won reinstatement and essentially had his record expunged.
Other offenses included a disorderly conduct charge in 2009 and extended absences without authorization multiple times between 2008 and 2010, resulting in administrative punishment three times, the Post reported, citing a Navy official.
In 2010 in Fort Worth, Tex. where Alexis was stationed, he fired a shot into the floor of his upstairs neighbor with whom he had been feuding about noise. He was arrested but not charged after telling police he was cleaning his gun when it fired accidentally.
He was discharged from the Navy on Jan. 31, 2011 and this past July he was employed by a defense contractor as a computer technician — gaining “secret” clearance status with no problems despite his Navy misconduct record and two known shooting incidents. The clearance card got him inside the Navy Yard on Monday.
What may have been the final warning sign came on Aug. 7, a little more than a month before the massacre. Alexis called police in Newport, R.I. to a hotel and told them he was being followed and people were sending vibrations by a microwave machine and talking to him through walls, floors and ceilings.
Once again the warning signs were there. Background checks and security clearance checks are supposed to pick up the signs. Once again they did not. What will it take to get those responsible to see the signs before another tragedy occurs?