News & Politics

FBI Releases Video and Photos of Navy Yard Gunman Aaron Alexis

Images show Alexis roaming the halls of Building 197 and the shotgun he used to carry out the attack.

Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis moves through the hallways of Building 197. Photograph courtesy of the FBI.
Aaron Alexis roamed the Washington Navy Yard’s Building 197 for nearly an hour before police took him down, the FBI said today. In a press conference that gave the fullest picture so far of the shooting spree last week that took 13 lives, officials also released surveillance video and photos of Alexis driving onto the base and roaming the hallways with the shotgun he purchased at a Northern Virginia store two days before his rampage.
Close-up photographs of the shotgun, a Remington 870, show that Alexis sawed down and etched it with various phrases, including “End to the torment!” and “Better off this way!” Authorities also provided a detailed timeline of the shootings.
Alexis, who was working there as an information technology contractor, drove onto the base at 7:53 AM in a rented Toyota Prius, the FBI said. He had been staying at a Residence Inn in Southwest DC since Sept. 7, after spending the previous two weeks at other Washington-area hotels. After parking his car, he entered Building 197 carrying a backpack and a clipboard and headed into a fourth-floor restroom at 8:09. Six minutes later, he emerged from the restroom carrying the shotgun, leaving the backpack and clipboard behind.
Alexis killed his first victim at 8:16, prompting a 911 call a minute later. For the next hour, he walked around the building, stopping on the third floor and ground floor before returning to the fourth floor. He went back down to the third floor just before 9 AM. At 9:25, he was finally stopped when MPD Officer Dorian DeSantis shot and killed him.
Navigating Building 197, which is home to 3,000 workers and the Navy command unit in charge of shipbuilding, was a “tactical nightmare” for the first responders who rushed to the Navy Yard, said Valerie Parlave, the FBI assistant director in charge of the Washington field office. Parlave also said that evidence collected in the investigation shows “no indication anyone was killed by friendly fire.”
While authorities have still not said if Alexis had a specific motive, Parlave did comment on Alexis’s history of mental health problems. Alexis, she said, had a “delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by electromagnetic waves.” One of the etchings on the shotgun’s body read “My ELF weapon!” in an apparent reference to a fear he had of being controlled or attacked by electromagnetic waves. Investigators going through Alexis’s belongings also found a computer document echoing fears of electromagnetic technology.
“Ultra low frequency attack is what I’ve been subject to for the last 3 months, and to be perfectly honest that is what has driven me to this,” the document stated, according to the FBI. Submarine communications used to rely on low-frequency electromagnetic technology, although there are several conspiracy theories that claim the frequencies are used for government surveilance or neural weaponization, an FBI press release notes.

Still, Parlave and the other authorities reviewing the Navy Yard shooting still don’t have an answer for how someone with Alexis’s history of paranoia and run-ins with law enforcement was still able to get clearance to work on a secured military base. Alexis’s mental health history remains a focus of the investigation, but Parlave said it appears he was set on ending his own life. There are “indicators that Alexis was prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions,” she said.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.