At least 13 people were shot dead and several others wounded after a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard Monday, police said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities sought to contain the panic.
The shootings resulted in the single worst loss of life in the District of Columbia since an airliner plunged into the Potomac River in 1982, killing 78.
The suspected shooter, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis, 34, formerly of Queens and Brooklyn and living in Fort Worth, Texas, is among the 13 dead. Alexis gained access to the Navy Yard building legitimately -- he had clearance because of his work as a military contractor, police said.
Vice Adm. Bill French said 14 people also were injured.
It took hours after the rampage began until authorities believed that the shooting was the act of a lone gunman. D.C. police Chief Cathy L. Lanier initially said authorities were looking for two more potential shooters dressed in military-style clothing. But later officials said both had been found and cleared.
Monday night the Metropolitan Police Department identified seven of the dead as Michael Arnold, 59; Sylvia Frasier, 53; Kathy Gaarde, 62; John Roger Johnson, 73; Frank Kohler, 50; Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, and Vishnu Pandit, 61. The locations of their residences were not available Monday night.
A neighbor and friend of Kohler, who lived in Tall Timbers, Md., remembered him as a computer whiz dedicated to his country and family.
"He was a hell of a man and he truly did not deserve the fate that befell him today," said Steven Salsbury, 54. "He was a smart man and a patriot. He loved going to work and he lived life to the fullest."
Anger at the Navy
The preliminary FBI investigation shows that Alexis, a Navy veteran, was angry with the Navy, possibly for reasons that include his discharge from the service, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told Newsday. The official said investigators are also checking reports from colleagues of Alexis that he recently had "work related issues."
A Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post that Alexis was discharged in January 2011 for "misconduct," and that a 2010 firearms incident in Texas played a role in his departure.
Police said Alexis had fired a shot through the ceiling of his apartment, missing his upstairs neighbor by a few feet. Alexis later said his gun had gone off while he was cleaning it.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray said no motive was known. He said there is no reason to believe it was terrorism, though he added that he could not rule it out. Alexis was armed with an assault-style rifle and a pistol, two law enforcement officials said. One said he also had a shotgun. One official said not all the weapons have been accounted for.
At least two police officers were among those shot. Police on the scene said one is a D.C. police officer who was shot twice in the leg.
Lanier said the officer was in stable condition after exchanging fire with the shooter. He was conscious at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, hospital officials said. The other was a base officer.
Janis Orlowski, the chief medical officer at Washington Hospital Center, said three victims in all were brought there, all in critical condition but alert, and able to talk with doctors. Two victims at the hospital were female civilians, Orlowski said. All are likely to survive, she said.
Push for justice
President Barack Obama Monday expressed sympathy for the victims of the shooting and said justice must be sought.
"I've made it clear to my team that we want the investigation to be seamless, so that local and federal authorities are working together," he said.
Alexis grew up in Brooklyn with his mother, Sarah, and father, Anthony Alexis, according to his aunt, Helen Weeks.
"We haven't seen him for years," Weeks said of her nephew in a telephone interview.
Alexis spent nearly four years in the Navy as a full-time reservist from May 2007 until he was discharged in 2011, according to a summary of his personnel records released by Navy officials at the Pentagon.
He achieved his final rank of Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class in December 2009.
Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, told CNN that he believed Alexis had been working as a Navy contractor in the information technology area.
Hewlett-Packard said in a statement that Alexis was an employee of The Experts, a subcontractor to an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network.
The carnage began around 8 a.m. when Navy officials said that three shots were fired at Building 197, headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command. About 3,000 people work in the building.
Rick Mason, a civilian program management analyst, told The Associated Press that a gunman was shooting from a fourth-floor overlook outside his office. He said the gunman was aiming at people in the building's first-floor cafeteria.
Terrie Durham said that as she and co-workers were evacuating, she saw a man down the hall raise a rifle and fire toward them, hitting a wall. "He didn't say a word," said her co-worker, Todd Brundidge.
Employees described the chaos, as a fire alarm sounded and people shouted, "Where is he? Where is he?"
Finally, about 11 a.m., he and a co-worker made a break for it.
The impact of the incident rippled across town, forcing schools, offices and homes into a lockdown when they suspected other assailants were at large.
Senate buildings on Capitol Hill went on lockdown about 3 p.m., though it was partly lifted later. The Nationals baseball team, whose ballpark is near the Navy Yard, postponed a night game.
With Kevin Deutsch