Fusillade de Washington: qui était Aaron Alexis?

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AARON ALEXIS
Aaron Alexis | AP

WASHINGTON - Aaron Alexis, 34 ans, identifié comme l'auteur d'une fusillade qui a fait 13 morts lundi dans un immeuble de l'US Navy à Washington, était un ancien réserviste de la Marine, connu pour pratiquer la méditation mais aussi ses accès de colère.

Alors que ses motivations restaient floues, cet homme noir, natif de New York et habitant le Texas, a été tué lundi matin au siège du Commandement des systèmes navals de la Marine américaine, où il a ouvert le feu à plusieurs reprises, avec une arme semi-automatique, tuant douze personnes et en blessant au moins une dizaine d'autres.

Visage fin et cheveux rasés, cet homme de grande taille était entré dans le complexe de bureaux avec un badge appartenant à un autre membre de la Navy, selon le Washington Post, mais on ignorait encore s'il l'avait volé ou s'il l'avait obtenu volontairement de son propriétaire.

Plusieurs heures après le drame, le FBI a émis un avis pour tenter de mettre la main sur toute information permettant de mieux cerner le tireur, dont il a publié la photo. "Aucun renseignement n'est insignifiant. Nous voulons tout savoir sur ses récents mouvements", a déclaré Valerie Parlave, directrice adjointe du FBI.

Aaron Alexis était employé par une entreprise sous-traitante de Hewlett-Packard, pour laquelle il rénovait les équipements utilisés par le réseau intranet de la Marine, selon un communiqué de HP. Selon sa biographie fournie par la Marine, Aaron Alexis avait passé près de quatre ans dans ses rangs comme réserviste de mai 2007 à janvier 2011 mais les raisons de son départ restent aussi indéterminées.

Des amis interrogés par la presse locale expliquent qu'il n'aimait pas se lever tôt, son propriétaire à Fort Worth, auquel il s'était confié, a rapporté que "quelqu'un ne l'aimait pas".

Mais un responsable militaire parlant sous couvert de l'anonymat a précisé à l'AFP qu'il avait été à l'origine d'une "série d'incidents liés à son comportement" dans la Marine, mais n'a pas pu dire si cet homme, qui avait reçu des décorations militaires, avait été renvoyé.

Après son départ de la Marine, Aaron Alexis a travaillé tantôt comme serveur ou comme livreur dans un restaurant thaï de Fort Worth, selon des amis cités par le Star-Telegram.

Il avait appris le thaï, s'était rendu en Thaïlande et au Japon, fréquentait les temples bouddhistes où il aimait méditer, ajoute ce journal local. "Ca n'était pas un type qui parlait d'armes ou de choses violentes", a témoigné Sandy Guerra-Cline, une cliente du restaurant.

Stress post-traumatique

"Il était toujours très poli avec moi", a aussi rapporté Somsak Srisan, le propriétaire de son deux pièces dans lequel il n'avait pas vécu depuis six à huit mois.

"Vu de l'extérieur, c'était un calme mais je pense qu'intérieurement, c'était quelqu'un de très agressif", a en revanche observé J. Sirun, l'assistant des moines du temple qu'il fréquentait. "Il n'aimait pas être proche des gens, comme un soldat qui rentre de la guerre", a-t-il dit au Washington Post.

Aaron Alexis, qui avait un permis de port d'arme, avait été arrêté en 2010 pour avoir vidé son chargeur à travers le plafond de sa voisine, contre laquelle il avait porté plainte pour nuisances sonores. Les charges avaient été abandonnées.

Quelques années plus tôt, en 2004, la police de Seattle l'avait interpellé après qu'il eut tiré trois balles dans les pneus d'un ouvrier qui s'était garé devant chez lui. Il avait dit à la police qu'il était en colère mais ne se souvenait de rien.

Il avait alors confié avoir participé activement aux recherches sur le site des attaques du 11-Septembre et avoué "combien ces événements l'avaient perturbé". Son père avait évoqué les "problèmes (de son fils) à gérer sa colère" et parlé de troubles de stress post-traumatique (PTSD) dont il souffrait depuis les attentats, selon un rapport de police posté sur le site Seattle.gov.

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Ci-dessous, voici un blogue en direct de nos collègues américains (en anglais).

When 13 people died in a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, the story made front page news. But many of the mass shootings that have happened since the December massacre of elementary school students and teachers in Newtown, Conn., didn't.

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The Associated Press reports:

Michael Slocum, an attorney for a Virginia gun store, said in an email that Aaron Alexis visited Sharpshooters Small Arms Range on Sunday. He says Alexis rented a rifle, bought bullets and used the range. He then bought a shotgun and 24 shells.

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WASHINGTON -- Alleged Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis acted alone and was "determined to kill as many people as possible," law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Officials would not comment on Alexis' alleged motive during a press conference held Tuesday afternoon outside the FBI's Washington Field Office, but said they had determined he arrived in the area around Aug. 25 and had been staying at the Residence Inn in Southwest Washington, D.C. since Sept. 7.

The FBI is investigating "hundreds" of tips they have received Monday's shooting. "No piece of information is too small," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave, asking for additional assistance from the public.

Metropolitan Police Officer Scott Williams is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery, according to MPD Chief Cathy Lanier. "We have a very good prognosis from the doctors, he does have serious injuries to his legs. Again, I know the officer and I know his personality, and I'm real confident he will not only walk again but probably will outrun most of us again," Lanier said.

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Aaron Alexis entered Building 197 with only a shotgun in his possession, not an assault rifle like some media outlets reported. "We have no information that [Alexis] had an AR-15 assault rifle in his possession," the FBI's Valerie Parlave said in a press conference. "He may have gained access to a handgun ... and after he began shooting."

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Alexis was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2011 after bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and being absent from work without authorization.

The AP reports:

Officials said the bad conduct was enough to make it clear Alexis would not be a good sailor, but not enough to warrant a general or less-than-honorable discharge. They also did not involve criminal offenses, so did not trigger any court-martial proceedings.

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Here's a complete list of the victims of yesterday's shooting:

Michael Arnold, 59
Martin Bodrog, 54
Arthur Daniels, 51
Sylvia Frasier, 53
Kathleen Gaarde, 62
John Roger Johnson, 73
Mary Francis Knight, 51
Frank Kohler, 50
Vishnu Pandit, 61
Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Gerald L. Read, 58

Richard Michael Ridgell, 52

Suspected gunman Aaron Alexis, 34, died as well.

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Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, told the Associated Press that three victims in yesterday's shooting -- including a police officer who was shot in the legs -- are recovering and in fair or good condition. She said two women who saw others shot are "very worried about their co-workers," but are unaware of the extent of the shooting.

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Schools near Navy Yard that were on lockdown after Monday's shooting have reopened on Tuesday, WJLA reports.

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"A dozen or so" people gathered for a candlelight vigil at D.C.'s Freedom Plaza last night, reports the Washington City Paper:

"How immune are we becoming to these senseless mass shootings?" Eddie Weingart, the vigil's organizer and the founder of Project End Gun Violence, asked the ceremony's participants, who were flanked by twice as many media members. "Mass shootings are becoming as American as apple pie and baseball."

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NEW YORK -- Rep. Jason Chaffetz's (R-Utah) accusatory tweet is only one example of a meme now making its way through the conservative community: that somehow "political correctness" -- a refusal to judge employees, especially in the military -- is responsible for the Navy Yard shooting.

At a conservative monthly gathering here called the New York Meeting, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who gained notoriety for shouting "you lie" at President Barack Obama, said that the military had failed in recent years to do proper "threat assessments" of individuals, and that the Fort Hood attack in 2009 was the result of the failure to properly supervise the assailant, Nidal Hasan -- and that the same laxity of supervision might have been at work at the Navy Yard.

"There have been six different internal attacks within the military on fellow troops" in recent years, Wilson said. He agreed with a questioner that there had been a "change in the culture" and that "political correctness" had produced an atmosphere of lax supervision.

-- Howard Fineman

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After the Boston Marathon bombing, Reddit users attempted to figure out who the culprits were, leading to "online witch hunts" that resulted in falsely fingering individuals.

On Monday, Reddit took steps to make sure that didn't happen again in the aftermath of the Navy Yard shooting, shutting down a section known as a "subreddit" that sought to identify the shooter.

"We banned it because it violated site rules by encouraging the posting of personal information," Erik Martin from Reddit told the Washington Post. "The quote from the side bar that subreddit [sic] that was banned said 'no personal information about leads unless you are really sure.' We do not allow the posting of personal information under any circumstances."

-- Amanda Terkel

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Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis reportedly suffered from "a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder ... [and] had been hearing voices in his head," according to the Associated Press.

However, the Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded his security clearance.

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Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis "was described as a Buddhist who had also had flares of rage, complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination and had several run-ins with law enforcement, including two shootings," according to the Associated Press.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray called the shooting "a horrific tragedy," but said there was no indication it was a terrorist attack, although the possibility had not been ruled out.

Read more about Alexis' background here.

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Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said after authorities determined the slain Navy Yard shooter acted alone that all operations at the Senate would return to normal on Tuesday.

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Slain Washington Navy Yard shooting suspect Aaron Alexis had "secret clearance," the CEO of The Experts Inc. told Reuters.

"He did have a secret clearance. And he did have a CAC (common access card)," said Thomas Hoshko, CEO of The Experts Inc., which was helping service the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a subcontractor for HP Enterprise Services, part of Hewlett-Packard Co.

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The names of seven of the 12 people killed in Monday's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard have been released.

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Meditations on the roots of violence were front and center Monday during an evening prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral.

A layman at the nation's house of worship, Andrew Hullinger, led several dozen worshippers in prayer not only for the victims of Monday's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, but also for "the lost, who seemed to believe that violence was their only option."

Read more of Christina Wilkie's report here.

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Washington police Officer Scott Williams was identified by authorities at a Monday night press conference as having been wounded in the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard earlier in the day.

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Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said in a press briefing that "we have the single and sole person responsible" and police are lifting the "shelter in place" order.

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Roads were closed for blocks. Businesses shut down. People in nearby buildings were instructed to stay inside. The Senate went into shutdown mode, planes at nearby airports were grounded, and the Nationals, whose baseball stadium is blocks from the Navy Yard, called off their scheduled evening game against the Braves.

Navy Yard employees -- there are roughly 3,000 of them -- were allowed to leave the complex by 3:30 p.m. Monday, having been on lockdown for hours. And slowly, hundreds began to fill the empty streets and make their way to the nearby Metro station. Some stopped for a few minutes to talk to reporters about their experience.

"Terrifying," said Gregory Dade, who said he locked himself in his office as gunfire carried on for nearly an hour outside his door.

Read more of the report from HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery here.

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Washington Mayor Vincent Grey provided new information in a press conference on the deceased: Their ages are 46 to 73 years of age. Seven families have been notified.

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NBC News reports on the weapons Alexis had with him on Monday:

He packed an assault rifle and two other firearms during his lethal rampage — including a shotgun purchased just weeks ago at a Virginia gun shop, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News.

The officials also said Alexis obtained the assault rifle used in the shooting from a gun safe on the naval base. There’s where he may have also obtained a handgun, according to authorities.

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From Time:

The Navy “did not effectively mitigate access control risks associated with contractor installation access,” at the Navy Yard and other Navy installations, the report by the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office says. Parts of the audit were read to Time by a federal official with access to the document.

The risks resulted from an attempt by Navy officials “to reduce access control costs,” the report finds.

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Navy Vice Admiral Bill French has placed the number of Navy Yard casualties at 27, including 13 dead and 14 wounded. The shooter is among those killed. All 12 people killed by the shooter were civilians, French said.

-- Sabrina Siddiqui

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USA Today reports that at least some of the weapons used in the assault were purchased by Aaron Alexis in Virginia over the last few days.

Read the full story here.

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