Aaron Alexis suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a 9/11 responder, family members of the alleged Navy Yard shooter once told police.
Alexis is accused of opening fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 people and injuring many more. Police have not yet released a motive of the 34-year-old shooter, but a pattern has emerged of troubling behavior and gun-related incidents in his past.
Twice in the past Alexis was questioned or arrested by police for brandishing or discharging a gun. In 2010 he was arrested in Fort Worth, where he lived at the time, for discharging a gun through the floor of a neighbor.
Aaron Alexis claimed that the shooting was an accident that took place when he was cleaning his gun, but the neighbor said the act was intentional and that she feared Alexis. The district attorney ultimately decided not to prosecute Alexis in the incident.
“It was determined that Alexis was cleaning a gun in his apartment when it accidentally went off,” Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon Jr., said. “No one was injured.”
Six years prior, Alexis was arrested after another incident in Seattle. Construction workers parked outside Aaron’s home said he came to the door and brandished a gun, firing it as a warning. Alexis said the men had mocked and disrespected him, and that he responded with a “blackout” of anger.
Alexis also told police that he was present at “the tragic events of September 11, 2001” and said those events disturbed him. Detectives spoke to Alexis’ father, who said that Aaron worked in rescue efforts on 9/11.
But others who knew Aaron Alexis remembered him as easygoing, a Buddhist who was fluent in Thai.
“He was a good guy to me,” said Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of a Thai restaurant in Fort Worth and drinking buddy of Alexis. “I still can’t believe he would do that.”
Aaron Alexis changed much in the last year, those close to him say. He took a job with a computer company in Japan, but complained that he hadn’t been paid in weeks. He also had problems in his attempts to get a government job and was struggling with money and car problems.