As America's capital awoke to the aftermath of the deadly shooting incident on Monday at the U.S. Navy Yard military base, it emerged that the shooter, former navy reservist Aaron Alexis (34), had been arrested twice previously for gun-related misconduct.
Police also released information on at least eight of the 12 victims, revealing that one was an Indian-origin man, Vishnu Pandit (61), hailing from the nearby Maryland township of North Potomac.
Alexis was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police and security staff.
In a revelation that might fuel the debate on gun control sparked by the Newtown school shootings last December, authorities confirmed that Hewlett-Packard subcontractor Alexis was discharged from the navy in 2011 following his arrest over a shooting incident at Fort Worth, Texas.
Additionally, law enforcement in Seattle, Washington State, said Alexis had been arrested in 2004 after he allegedly pulled a pistol from his waistband and fired three shots into the rear tyres of a parked car belonging to two individuals who Alexis told police had “disrespected him”. He said he did not remember firing the gun in what he described as an “anger-fuelled blackout”.
According to sources speaking to the Associated Press, Alexis had an “abiding interest in Buddhism and Thai culture”, including the time he spent working as a waiter at a Thai restaurant, studying the country’s language and he “regularly chanted and meditated at Buddhist temples”.
Budget cuts blamed
The fact that Alexis managed to wreak havoc on the military base using an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun led to calls for review of security vetting procedures for controlling civilian access to military bases. There were concerns that federal budget cuts may have played a role in the Navy implementing “an unproven system in order to cut costs”, according to Republican Congressman Michael Turner.
Reports also noted that the gun used by Alexis, the AR-15 rifle, was also used by the shooter at Newtown, and in the July 2012 Colorado movie theatre shooting. Attempts by President Barack Obama to pass gun control legislation in the aftermath of Newtown and Aurora were rebuffed by the U.S. Congress and he did not allude to gun control in his statement on Monday.