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Gunman in Navy Yard shooting was in Navy Reserves

Tuesday - 9/17/2013, 11:28am  ET

aaronalexis_ap.jpg
This booking photo provided by the Fort Worth Police Department shows Aaron Alexis, arrested in September, 2010, on suspicion of discharging a firearm in the city limits. The FBI has identified Alexis, 34, as the gunman in the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard. (AP Photo/Fort Worth Police Department)
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DAVID CRARY
AP National Writer

Aaron Alexis seems a study in contradictions: a former Navy reservist, a Defense Department contractor, a convert to Buddhism who was taking an online course in aeronautics. But he also had flashes of temper that led to run-ins with police over shootings in Fort Worth, Texas, and Seattle.

A profile began to emerge Monday of the man authorities identified as the gunman in a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., that left 13 people dead, including the 34-year-old man. While some neighbors and acquaintances described him as "nice," his father once told detectives in Seattle that his son had anger management problems related to post-traumatic stress brought on by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said. Alexis had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation in the case was continuing.

The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.

Family members told investigators Alexis was being treated for his mental issues.

At the time of the shootings, he worked for The Experts, a subcontractor on an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network.

His life over the past decade has been checkered.

Alexis lived in Seattle in 2004 and 2005, according to public documents. In 2004, Seattle police said Alexis was arrested for shooting out the tires of another man's vehicle in what he later described to detectives as an anger-fueled "blackout." According to an account on the department's website, two construction workers had parked their Honda Accord in the driveway of their worksite, next to a home where Alexis was staying. The workers reported seeing a man, later identified by police as Alexis, walk out of the home next to their worksite, pull a gun from his waistband and fire three shots into the rear tires of their Honda before he walked slowly back to his home.

When detectives interviewed workers at the construction site, they told police Alexis had stared at construction workers at the job site daily for several weeks prior to the shooting. The owner of the construction business told police he believed Alexis was angry over the parking situation around the site.

Police eventually arrested Alexis, searched his home, found a gun and ammunition in his room, and booked him into the King County Jail for malicious mischief.

According to the police account, Alexis told detectives he perceived he had been "mocked" by construction workers the morning of the incident. Alexis also claimed he had an anger-fueled "blackout," and could not remember firing his gun at the Honda until an hour after the incident.

Alexis also told police he was present during "the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001" and described "how those events had disturbed him."

Then, on May 5, 2007, he enlisted in the Navy reserves, serving through 2011, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Megan Shutka.

Shutka said he received the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal during his stint in the reserves. Both are medals issued to large numbers of service members who served abroad and in the United States since the 9/11 attacks. Alexis' last assignment was as aviation electricians mate 3rd class at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Shutka said.

It was while he was still in the reserves that a neighbor in Fort Worth reported she had been nearly struck by a bullet shot from his downstairs apartment.

In September 2010, Fort Worth police questioned Alexis about the neighbor's report. He admitted to firing his weapon but said he was cleaning his gun when it accidentally discharged. He said he did not call the police because he didn't think the bullet went through to the other apartment. The neighbor told police she was scared of Alexis and felt he fired intentionally because he had complained about her making too much noise.

Alexis was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm within city limits but Tarrant County district attorney's spokeswoman Melody McDonald Lanier said the case was not pursued after it was determined the gun discharged accidentally.

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