The Washington Navy Yard gunman visited two hospitals in the weeks before the rampage but did not say he was depressed or having thoughts of harming himself or others, the Veterans Affairs Department said Wednesday.
Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist who killed 12 people Monday before being slain in a police shootout, complained of insomnia during an Aug. 23 emergency room visit at the VA Medical Center in Providence, R.I. He was given sleep medication and was advised to follow up with a doctor. He made a similar visit five days later to the VA hospital in Washington, when he again complained of not being able to sleep because of his work schedule. His medication was refilled.
The VA’s statement comes as investigators continue focusing on the mental state of a 34-year-old man who law-enforcement officials say was grappling with paranoia and reported hearing voices and being followed.
Two weeks before his ER visit, for instance, he complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep. Newport police alerted the naval station, and they did not hear from him again.
Despite the apparent concerns over his mental health and past run-ins with the law, Alexis maintained his security clearance as he arrived in Washington in late August for a position as an information-technology employee at a defense-related computer company.
He used a valid badge to gain access to the sprawling Navy Yard and Building 197, bringing with him a shotgun bearing the cryptic messages of “better off this way” and “my ELF weapon,” according to a law- enforcement document reviewed by The Associated Press. The meaning of those words wasn’t immediately clear.
The motive of the shooting remains unclear, though investigators have focused on Alexis’s mental health and alarming behavior displayed in the weeks before the massacre.
Meanwhile, Alexis’s mother said Wednesday she does not know why her son opened fire on office workers during a more than 30-minute rampage and shootout with police.
Cathleen Alexis read a brief statement inside her New York home, her voice shaking. She did not want to appear on camera and did not take questions from a reporter.
“Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that I am glad,” Cathleen Alexis said. “To the families of the victims, I am so so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.”