News & Politics

Who Is Aaron Alexis? (Updated)

Information is developing quickly about the life and background of the Navy Yard shooter.

The dead suspected gunman in the Navy Yard shootings, Aaron Alexis, joins a long and growing list in America of mass shooters, particularly lone males. There have been 15 this year alone, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt said in an MSNBC interview. In the 24 hours since the Navy Yard shootings occurred, claiming 13 including Alexis and injuring another eight, information about Alexis has developed quickly. The picture being painted of him by police, forensic profilers, and friends is of a man with possible mental health, anger, and violence issues. 

Here’s what we’ve gleaned so far from a variety of sources, including the FBI, police, and media stories:

• He was 34 years old, stood 6-foot-1, and weighed approximately 190 pounds, according to public records. 

• He moved to DC from Fort Worth in the past month. Authorities said that as of September 7 he lived in a Residence Inn near the Navy Yard.

• He was pursuing an online aeronautical engineering degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

• The Washington Post reported on Tuesday afternoon that while he was in the Navy “Alexis was cited at least eight times for misconduct for offenses as minor as a traffic ticket and showing up late for work but also as serious as insubordination and disorderly conduct,” quoting a Navy official who asked for anonymity. The paper reported, again quoting the anonymous source, that Alexis was arrested in 2008 in DeKalb County, Georgia, and held for two nights in jail. The story includes a link to the citation.

• His prior police record includes a 2004 malicious mischief charge in Seattle for shooting out the tires of another man’s car. He was also arrested in 2010 in Fort Worth for discharging a firearm at the Orion Oak Hill apartments, where he lived. 

• Seattle police, investigating the 2004 handgun incident, talked with Alexis’s father, who said his son had anger problems and post-traumatic stress disorder after being an “active participant” in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

• Alexis served in the Navy Reserves from May 2007 through 2011, according to the Navy. He left the service on his own decision and entered into private contracting work. He was decorated twice by the Defense Department, with a National Defense service medal and a Global War on Terrorism service medal.

• He had converted to Buddhism, enjoyed meditation, and was fascinated with Thailand. He was learning the language and had visited the country. He occasionally worked as a waiter at the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in a suburb of Fort Worth, speaking Thai with the customers. 

• In a wide range of interviews, friends and acquaintances of Alexis described him as friendly but also reclusive and shy.

• Law enforcement authorities told the Associated Press that Alexis suffered from paranoia and sleep disorder, and that he said he was hearing voices. He was treated by the Veterans Administration, but the Navy did not declare him mentally unfit.

• Friends said Alexis was drawn to playing video games, including some that skew particularly violent, such as Call of Duty. A Fort Worth, Texas, friend and on-and-off roommate, Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, who described Alexis as being like his “big brother,” said Alexis would sometimes play video games “all day and all night.” 

• His family lives in New York, where he also lived before moving to Seattle. Alexis also had relatives in Seattle and Georgia. 

See below for a biography of Alexis released by the Navy’s Office of Information. 

Name: Aaron Alexis

Age: 34

Home of Record: New York, NY

Date Enlisted: May 5, 2007

Rank/Rating: Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class / AE3

Date of Rank: Dec. 16, 2009

Duty Station:

Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 46, Fort Worth, TX (Reported Feb. 1, 2008; Detached Jan. 21, 2011)

Commander, Fleet Logistics Support Wing (Reported Jan. 6, 2008; Detached Feb. 1, 2008)

Various Professional Training (July 10, 2007; Detached Sept. 13, 2007)

Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL (Reported May 8, 2007; Detached July 10, 2007)

Awards and Decorations:

National Defense Service Medal

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

This post has been updated from a previous version.