Navy Yard Shooter Failed to Disclose Prior Gun ArrestDavid Lerman
The Navy didn’t know that Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis had shot out a Seattle construction worker’s tires when it awarded him a security clearance in 2008 because of faulty information in an investigative report, according to a document released yesterday by the Navy.
The July 2007 report by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said Alexis was arrested for “deflating” the tires, without explaining that he had used a firearm in the 2004 shooting incident.
Alexis, a computer contractor who authorities say killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16 before police shot and killed him, failed to disclose the Seattle incident on a security questionnaire that asked about criminal offenses, according to the report. It said that Alexis told investigators he thought he didn’t have to reveal the arrest because the charge was dismissed.
Alexis also incorrectly denied having delinquent debts on the questionnaire when credit reports showed he owed thousands of dollars in unpaid auto loans, student loans, traffic tickets, storage-unit rental and other debts, according to the report. The report was prepared as part of the process for granting Alexis a security clearance after he enlisted in the Navy in 2007.
The disclosure yesterday of the investigative report added to evidence of missed signals about Alexis, 34, who had told Rhode Island police last month that he was hearing voices and being stalked by unseen harassers.
In response to the Navy Yard incident, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that all future investigative reports conducted by the Office of Personnel Management include any available police documents, according to a Navy official who briefed reporters yesterday on condition of anonymity to discuss the case.
Mabus is also directing his staff to require more senior officers to assume responsibilities for security management and the handling of evaluation and fitness reports, the official said.
A timeline of events involving Alexis from 2004 to 2011, released by the Navy yesterday, shows the shooter escaped punishment for minor offenses on at least two occasions.
Alexis received a nonjudicial military punishment in 2008 for an unauthorized absence after spending a night in jail in Georgia following an arrest for disorderly conduct outside a nightclub, according to the timeline. The penalties were suspended, which is common for a first offense, the Navy official said.
A year later, Alexis received a second nonjudicial punishment for drunk and disorderly behavior when he jumped off a staircase and broke his ankle while reportedly intoxicated, the timeline said. Alexis appealed the ruling and the punishment was set aside because of “insufficient evidence to prove he was intoxicated at the time,” according to the timeline.
In September 2010, the Navy began the process of preparing to remove Alexis from the service after he was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, for firing a gun in his home. The Navy abandoned the effort because charges in the shooting incident were never filed, according to the timeline.
Without charges, there were no grounds for discharging him at the time, the Navy official said.
Fort Worth police had arrested Alexis after an upstairs neighbor reported that a bullet came through her floor from his apartment below. Alexis told officers he was cleaning a gun when it went off.
In December 2010, Alexis requested a discharge from the Navy under a reduction-in-force program as the Pentagon sought to cut personnel costs.
The following month, he received an honorable discharge with a reentry code of RE-1, “the most favorable code” for re-enlistment, the timeline said.
Hagel acknowledged last week that the military failed to pick up “red flags” in Alexis’s background.
“Where there are gaps, we will close them; where there are inadequacies, we will address them; and where there are failures, we will correct them,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon on Sept. 18.
The 2007 Office of Personnel Management report also said Alexis had denied on a security questionnaire having delinquent debts.
A credit check revealed that Alexis had twice stopped making payments on auto loans after cars were declared total losses from accident damage, that he owed more than $6,500 in unpaid student loans, and that he had more than $2,300 worth of unpaid traffic and parking tickets, among other debts, according to the report.
Alexis said he didn’t disclose the debts because he thought he would be able to pay them before arriving at Navy boot camp, the report said.
In granting Alexis a secret-level clearance in 2008, the Navy issued “a single caution to the squadron concerning his negative credit history,” according to the Navy timeline. At the time it was issued, a secret-level clearance was good for 10 years, it said.