D.C. shooter thought radio waves controlled him, says FBI
Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves, the FBI says.
Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Washington Navy Yard shooter believed he was being targeted by an “ultra low frequency attack” and left a note saying this was “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 FBI revealed Wednesday.
Aaron Alexis, 34, a computer technician for a private Navy contractor, killed 12 people in the Sept. 16 slaughter as he fired a sawed-off Remington 870 Express shotgun, into which he had etched several phrases, including “End to the torment!”
The FBI also released surveillance video and photographs from Building 197 at the Navy Yard, including scenes of Alexis wielding the shotgun as he stalked hallways and stairwells in search of victims. The video does not show him shooting anyone.
Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said Alexis did not expect to survive the shootings that spanned 70 minutes that Monday. “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.
She also emphasized that there was no evidence Alexis was intentionally hunting down any co-workers or supervisors he might have known since he started working at the Navy Yard on Aug. 25. She added that he was involved in a “routine” office disagreement the Friday before, but she said that incident had nothing to do with his motive for the shootings. “There is no indication to date that Alexis was targeting specific individuals,” Parlave said.
The bureau also released a timeline showing that Alexis arrived at the Navy Yard at 7:53 a.m. EDT in a rented blue Toyota Prius with New York license plates and parked in a garage across from Building 197.
According to the timeline, he walked into the building carrying a backpack and was next seen headed to a fourth-floor bathroom carrying the backpack and a clipboard.
At 8:15, he left the bathroom with the shotgun “but without the backpack or a clipboard.” A minute later, he shot the first victim in the building’s 4 West area. The first 911 call came a minute later.
Alexis moved to the third floor at 8:20 and next went down to the first floor; then he returned to the third floor. At times, he crouched or hid. At 9:25, police officers shot and killed him on the third floor.
According to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Sarah Jones, the shooter’s body was found near a 9-mm semi-automatic pistol that authorities said he took from a security guard he shot. The shotgun was recovered on the first floor with Alexis’ ID badge for access to the building nearby.
The backpack was recovered in the bathroom. It contained “empty boxes of ammunition, consistent with the caliber discharged on the scene,” Jones said in the affidavit. Also inside were documents with his name on them, numerous electronic discs and external thumb drives.
Agents recovered his laptop computer at a nearby Residence Inn, where Alexis had been staying in Room 716 for nine days. The FBI did not reveal what investigators found on the various devices beyond the statement that an “ultra low frequency attack” had driven him to kill others.
Alexis had been experiencing delusional behavior, authorities said, telling police in Newport, R.I., that unseen individuals were following him and trying to send microwaves through his body.
He purchased the shotgun at a suburban Virginia gun store two days before the shootings. According to Parlave, Alexis altered the weapon by sawing off the barrel and stock. He covered the end of the stock with purple duct tape and etched phrases into the stock.
They were: “End to the torment.” “Not what yall say!” “Better off this way!” “My ELF weapon.”
Parlave noted that the Navy uses extremely low-frequency signals to communicate with submarines, but conspiracy theorists believe ELF is a weapon for government “monitoring and manipulation of unsuspecting citizens.”
Defense officials have acknowledged that red flags were missed in Alexis’ background, allowing him to maintain a secret-level security clearance and access to a Navy installation despite a string of behavioral problems and brushes with the law.
He worked for The Experts, a Florida-based computer firm that was a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor. Hewlett-Packard said Wednesday that it was severing ties with The Experts, accusing the company of failing to respond adequately to Alexis’ mental problems.
The Experts responded with a statement that the company was disappointed with Hewlett-Packard’s decision.
Also Wednesday, a senior defense official said the Pentagon had started three separate reviews of its security procedures in response to the shooting.
The report incorporating the findings is to be delivered to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel by Dec. 20.
In addition, USIS, the company that conducted background checks of Alexis and Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked national-security secrets, also is under investigation by the Office of Personnel Management.
Material from The New York Times and The Associated Press is included in this report.