WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The gunman behind the Washington Navy Yard shooting that left 12 people dead reportedly tried to buy an AR-15 assault rifle last week but the gun store would not sell it to him immediately.
CBS News reports 34-year-old Aaron Alexis test fired the semi-automatic weapon, but Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Va. wouldn’t let him purchase the rifle right away. According to CBS News, the gun store would have to observe the laws of the buyer’s home state in a firearms purchase. Alexis’s last known residence was in Texas.
Federal law states that a person purchasing an AR-15 assault rifle must show two proofs of residence with the same addresses and also proof that one is an American citizen.
Instead, Alexis ended up purchasing a shotgun and 24 shells, according to the store’s attorney, which ended up being used in the deadly shooting.
According to CBS News, it is not known whether the gun store refused to Alexis the assault rifle or if he just purchased the shotgun because he didn’t want to wait.
Clues about Alexis’ state of mind have been emerging as it was revealed he told Rhode Island authorities last month that he was hearing voices that were harassing him and wanting to harm him while staying at a hotel. He also said he believed people were following him, using a microwave machine to send vibrations to his body.
On Aug. 7, police alerted officials at the Newport Naval Station about the naval defense contractor’s call. But officers didn’t hear from him again.
By Aug. 25, Alexis had left the state. He arrived in the Washington area, continuing his work as an information technology employee for a defense-related computer company. Again, he spent nights in different hotels. He suffered from serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and was undergoing treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the law enforcement officials.
But Alexis wasn’t stripped of his security clearance, and he kept working.
On Sept. 16, Alexis entered the sprawling Washington Navy Yard, a 41-acre labyrinth of buildings protected by armed guards and metal detectors where employees must show IDs to get past doors and gates. Authorities believe he drove a rental car there.
He was equipped with his pass for base access — and the shotgun. Within minutes, it would create mayhem.
He stepped inside the massive Building 197, home to some 3,000 employees. He opened fire around 8:15 a.m., raining shotgun blasts down from a fourth-floor overlook and third-floor hallway into a glass-walled cafeteria where employees were eating breakfast. Trained tactical officers arrived, bursting through the building within seven minutes of the first 911 call, and Alexis shot at them, too.
Once inside, Alexis picked a handgun off an officer and, armed with two weapons, terrorized the building’s occupants.
“We just started running,” said Patricia Ward, who was in the cafeteria when the shooting began. She said she heard three gunshots in a row, followed by several more.
Descriptions from witnesses and police paint a portrait of harrowing gun battles inside — all for more than half an hour. The FBI, which launched a nationwide active shooter training program for local law enforcement after last December’s Connecticut elementary school massacre, says the average mass shooting is over within minutes and often ends once police arrive.
But this gun battle kept going. As the chaos unraveled inside, police in the nation’s capital shut down the surrounding area. Nearby schools went on lockdown, flights were halted at Reagan National Airport, and even after Alexis was mortally wounded by a police officer, officers chased leads that a second and possibly a third gunman had been working with him.
Twelve victims died — a body count that police say could have been much higher, even after they determined that the gunman had worked alone. Eight were injured, with all expected to survive.
The Navy said several garages and all surface parking lots at the Washington Navy Yard would open Wednesday for employees to retrieve their private vehicles. But the military installation would reopen for business for Mission Essential personnel only. In a posting on its Facebook page, the Navy said the yard remains an active crime scene.
Access to Building 197, the site of Monday’s shooting, was prohibited.
More than 24 hours after the shooting, the motive remained a mystery. U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that investigators had found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.
Ron Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, ticked off some of the unanswered questions Tuesday.
“What caused this individual to kill so many innocent men and women? How did he carry out and plan this attack? How did he get access to the weapons? What could have been done to prevent this tragedy? And most importantly, whether anyone else aided or assisted him either wittingly or unwittingly in this tragedy?”
Machen added, “We’re not going to stop until we get answers to those questions.”
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)