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Navy Yard shooting is nation's deadliest since Sandy Hook

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Photo by Jim Davis. Crime scene tape covers several blocks of M Street SE on Monday after 13 people were shot and killed at the Washington Navy Yard.

Photo by Jim Davis. Crime scene tape covers several blocks of M Street SE on Monday after 13 people were shot and killed at the Washington Navy Yard.

Published on: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

By Jim Davis

At least 12 victims and the suspected gunman were killed Monday in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.

Just before 8:30 a.m. Monday, a former Navy reservist and civilian contractor entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard on M Street SE and killed 12 people, shot four others and injured even more.

Law enforcement authorities identified the shooter as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Forth Worth, Texas. Alexis was killed while exchanging fire with police officers who stormed the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in a massive law enforcement response.

“There is no question he would have kept shooting,” said Police Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray said there was no information regarding a motive but that will be part of the investigation.

The early morning shooting paralyzed the nation’s capital, authorities said. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year and it was also the deadliest on a U.S. military installation since 13 people were killed at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.

“Today is a sad day in America as another mass shooting has tragically ended lives, disrupted families, and violated our sense of safety and security,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said in a statement Monday.

President Barack Obama called it a “cowardly act.” He said the rampage targeted patriots, military and civilians alike, “men and women who were going to work, doing their job, protecting all of us.”

“They know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home,” the president said Monday.

Alexis was carrying an AR-15 military-style semiautomatic rifle, a double-barreled shotgun and a handgun, law enforcement officials said. He made his way to the fourth floor overlooking the third floor and began shooting people one by one, authorities said.

Within four minutes of the report of the shooting, patrol units from the Metropolitan Police Department were on the scene. One of the first MPD officers on the scene who exchanged gunfire with Alexis was one of four people shot.

The officer was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center with bullet wounds in his legs.

A naval security guard was among those shot and was hit in both legs, U.S. military officials said.

The chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Dr. Janis Orlowski, said the hospital was treating three gunshot victims — a woman who was hit in the head and hand, a woman who was hit in the shoulder, and the police officer.

Orlowski said all three were doing relatively well: The officer needed surgery but is expected to be OK. He was most concerned about talking to his mother, Orlowski said. The woman hit in the shoulder was in such good spirits that she was playfully ordering doctors and nurses around. The bullet that hit the other woman in the head never touched her skull.

The 12 victims have been identified by authorities: Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va.; Martin Bodrog, 54, of Annandale, Va.; Arthur Daniels, 51, of southeast Washington, D.C.; Sylvia Fraiser, 53, of Waldorf, Md.; Kathleen Gaarde, 62, of Woodbridge, Va.; John Roger Johnson, 73, of Derwood, Md.; Mary Francis Knight, 51, of Reston, Va.; Frank Kohler, 50, of Tall Timbers, Md.; Vishnu Pandit, 61, of North Potomac, Md.; and Kenneth Proctor, 46, of Waldorf; Gerald L. Read, 58, of Alexandria, Va., and Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, of Westminster, Md. 

Roughly 3,000 people work at the Navy Yard and were told to stay in place. Many workers remained where they were for more than eight hours. Once workers were able to leave, many did not have time to collect their personal belongings. Some were put on Metro buses and transported to Nationals Park as others walked the five blocks to the ballpark, a gathering place where family members waited for their loved ones.

A large number of medic units and ambulances from the District of Columbia Fire Department were dispatched to the shooting, leaving parts of southeast Washington without emergency medical service. Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department transferred three ambulances, a medic unit and an engine company to the District to assist that area.

“We proudly stand in solidarity with our neighbors around the metropolitan region as we grieve the loss of those who were our residents, neighbors and friends,” Baker said.

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