Authored by Allan M. Siegel
In the aftermath of the tragic Navy Yard mass shooting in Washington, news
sources have begun to speculate: How did multiple government and third-party
agencies miss the red flags that pointed to Aaron Alexis' mental illness
and violent tendencies? According to
The Washington Post, the gunman's mass shooting was preceded by a pattern of psychological
deterioration that began in 2004.
Over the past nine years, multiple agencies failed to identify the man's
behavior as a threat.
Nine years ago, Alexis fired multiple shots into the tires of another vehicle.
He was arrested and told police that he suffered a "blackout"
caused by rage. Law enforcement failed to file charges against him though,
because the paperwork for the case was lost.
Had Alexis been convicted of an offense, future background checks (for
job applications, firearms purchases, etc.) may have connected him with
the crime and potentially prevented him from buying a gun two days before
the Washington Navy Yard murders.
Several years later, USIS, a government contractor, ran a background check
on Alexis after he applied for secret-level security clearance. According
to the report, Alexis committed an act of "malicious mischief"
in 2004 (the first shooting). However, the report was not enough to keep
him from obtaining high-level security clearance. After his application
was accepted, the Department of Defense was not obligated to revisit his
qualifications for another ten years.
In the same year, police reports indicated that Alexis was arrested for
destroying some furnishings in a nightclub. He paid a $300 fine and was
released from jail three days later.
Two years later (2010), law enforcement arrested Alexis after they suspected
that he fired a gunshot through the roof of his apartment. Alexis claimed
that the incident was an accident and that it occurred when he was cleaning
his gun – however, Alexis had complained about noise from the other
apartment before the incident.
In 2011, Alexis punched a man in the face during an altercation. Law enforcement
gave the other man a citation and, even though his commander a pattern
of erratic behavior, Alexis was honorably discharged from the Navy. In
the same year, he applied for disability benefits, but did not undergo
an extensive psychological evaluation.
One year later, an outside firm called the Experts hired Alexis and conducted
a background check. Once again, the fact that he had not had actual criminal
convictions kept the investigation from revealing anything dangerous,
such as his two prior gun-related run-ins with the law.
After a short hiatus, Alexis began working for the Experts again in 2013.
At this time, the company conducted another background check. Two months
later, Alexis called the police and claimed that he heard voices in "microwave
machines." At this time, law enforcement performed another background
check that, like all of the previous checks, failed to yield helpful information.
Police filed a report and notified the Newport Navy Station.
When Alexis called the Experts and told them about the "microwave
machines", he was sent home for only three days before returning
to work. At the end of August, 2013, Alexis asked his doctor for medication
to treat insomnia. In order to refill the prescription, the doctor asked
if Alexis had any thoughts of self-harm or violence but was not subjected
to an extensive psychological evaluation.
On September 14th, Alexis purchased a firearm. Because he was never convicted of a crime,
the background check once again came back clean. The Washington Navy Yard
shooting took place only two days later.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C., we believe that people
should be held responsible for their actions. The gunman may not be the
only person liable for the deaths and injuries he caused on September 16th; the numerous agencies, companies and officials who had responsible for
investigating and hiring Alexis' could be responsible as well.
For example, the company that Alexis worked with failed to identify his
prior and recent unpredictable behavior, and remove him from the workforce.
No one at the Washington Navy Yard noticed when Alexis entered the premises
with a bag that was filled with an unassembled gun. The Department of
Defense allowed Alexis to maintain secret-level security clearance, despite
his a long history of instability. These are just some of the examples
of those who might be held responsible.
For more information about potential lawsuits related to this story,
visit our Navy Yard Shooting page.
If you suffered the loss of a loved one or a severe injury in the Washington
Navy Yard shooting, please contact our firm right away. We have extensive
experience handling inadequate and negligent security cases, and cases
involving negligent hiring, supervision and retention, and may be able
to help you pursue financial compensation for your damages.