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Navy Yard shootings: Navy didn't consider Aaron Alexis a threat

2:41 PM, Sep 18, 2013   |    comments
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By Tom Vanden Brook and Jim Michaels, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - Officials at the Navy base in Newport, R.I., failed to forward a report from local police last month that Monday's alleged killer of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had complained about hearing voices coming from the ceiling of his hotel, a Pentagon official told USA TODAY.

Aaron Alexis, 34, was questioned by Newport police on Aug. 7 at a local hotel room. Alexis, a Navy civilian contractor working on a job at the Newport base, told officers that unknown people were trying to prevent him from sleeping and sending "vibrations" through his body. Newport police then contacted base security to alert them about Alexis.

"There is no indication that the information went beyond the naval security force (at base)," the official said, adding that more details could emerge as the investigation continues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly.

Base security "did not deem Alexis to pose a threat to himself or others based on his alleged conduct at the hotel that night," according to another Navy source who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. That's why, the second official said, the base security did not inform Navy officials in Washington or elsewhere.

The Naval Station Newport authorities did not contact Alexis' employer - a Fort Lauderdale-based information technology firm called The Experts - or other Navy authorities, said the first official, who added that the information remains preliminary and could change.

The report by Newport Police Sgt. Frank Rosa said he called local base security. "Based on the Naval Base implications and the claim that the involved subject, one (redacted) was 'hearing voices' I made contact with on duty Naval Station Police (redacted)," the report said. "I advised (redacted) of the report and the claims by Alexis. I then faxed (redacted) a copy of the report. (redacted) advised me that (redacted) would follow up on this subject and determine if he is in fact a naval base contractor."

The failure to forward the information from the Newport police echoes two cases in 2009 in which law enforcement officials did not act on information that could have stopped two incidents - the Nov. 5, 2009, murder of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, and the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on Dec. 25.

FBI anti-terrorism officials did not alert military authorities that Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood killer, had sent numerous e-mails to terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki for almost a year leading up to the Fort Hood attack. In the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man convicted of trying to blow up the Northwest Airlines flight, officials did not forward information provided to U.S. officials in Nigeria by Abdulmutallab's father that his son was in Yemen and had extreme views.

A member of the Senate Armed Services said Wednesday the failure to inform higher Navy authorities is a breakdown in communication.

"Clearly the system did not work and this is not the first example of a breakdown," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who chairs the committee's personnel subcommittee. "We need to fully examine this issue, not just looking backwards, but also forwards, and fully address solutions that will protect personal and national security."

Alexis died in a shootout with police after he gunned down 12 employees at the Navy Yard, authorities have said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday that the Pentagon would review its security procedures at its installations and the procedures it uses to provide clearances to troops and civilian employees like Alexis.

Alexis had a history of encounters with law enforcement over firearms. Authorities in Texas in 2010 arrested him for firing a round through his apartment ceiling. He was not charged. In 2004 in Seattle, he shot the rear tires of a construction worker's car after an altercation.

Despite those incidents, Alexis received and maintained a secret security clearance during his tenure in the Navy Reserve from 2008 to 2011.

Follow @tvandenbrook and @jimmichaels on Twitter.

USA TODAY

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