13 dead in Washington Navy Yard shooting

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police officer with the U.S. Department of Defense guards the front entrance of the Navy Yard on Tuesday. He allowed some workers to enter the base and turned others away.  SHFWire photo by Zahra Farah

police officer with the U.S. Department of Defense guards the front entrance of the Navy Yard on Tuesday. He allowed some workers to enter the base and turned others away. SHFWire photo by Zahra Farah

By Zahra Farah

zahra.farah@shns.com

SHFWire

WASHINGTON 6:11 p.m. — At least 13 people are confirmed dead and several others were wounded after a mass shooting Monday morning at Washington Navy Yard.

The suspected shooter is among the 13 dead, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a press conference.

The FBI identified him as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas. At about 8:20 a.m. a shooter entered Building 197, where about 3,000 people work for the Naval Sea System Command, and began shooting.

Lanier said the Metropolitan Police Department sent an “active shooter team” within seven minutes of reports of shots being fired.

She said at least one D.C. police officer was wounded and was in stable condition. It is unclear if the shooter acted alone, but Lanier said police are looking for a possible second suspect.

That person is described as a black male in his 40s with gray sideburns, wearing an olive-drab military style uniform. Anyone who has information about the two suspects should call police at 202-727-9099. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray advised residents who live nearby to stay in their homes because this was an “active situation.”

Gray said officials do not know the motive behind the shooting, but he said he believes it was not an act of terrorism.

Tim Jirus, a Navy commander who works in Building 197, said as he was evacuating the building he went into an alley for cover.

While he was there, he said a man came up to ask him what happened inside. Jirus said he talked to the man for about a minute before he heard two shots.

He said the man next to him was shot in the head and “fell right in front of me before I ran.” “I feel very lucky to be alive,” Jirus said.

“Some guy next to me was shot this morning. He was no closer to him than it was to me, but it hit him.” Asked if he has come to grips with what he saw, Jirus replied, “No.”

Hundreds of law enforcement officials from the D.C. police, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the National Park Police and the D.C. Fire Department responded.

Police closed the 11th Street Bridge and M Street between 2nd and 4th Streets SE, which border the Navy Yard, for most of the day.

However, the Navy Yard Metro station and the rest of the Metro remained open.

Buses that normally travel on busy M Street were rerouted. Eric Weill, 56, Naval Sea System Command engineer who works inside the building where the shooting took place, said he was riding a bus to work when the shooting happened.

Weill, who has taken the same route to work for the past four years, said he was running late.

Right when he was about to get off 8th and M streets, the bus stopped and made a detour to L Street. Weill said he heard sirens blaring and saw police cars block off the street. “I’m not sure what to think,” he said. “I’m just happy I was late.”

Despite police, ambulances and reporters swarming the streets, the neighborhood around Washington Navy Yard was almost a ghost town.

The area normally bustles with workers from the nearby Department of Transportation and dozens of office buildings.

The Marine Barracks is about two blocks away.

Among the few people outside was Jacqueline Alston, 63, who was waiting at Nationals Park to find out what happened to her husband.

Police used the ballpark as a place for family members to reunite with loved ones.

The Nats postponed a game scheduled for Monday night to Tuesday.

Alston’s husband, Ernest Johnston, 62, is a custodian who works on the fourth floor of Building 197.

“I just want to hear his voice to know that he is OK,” she said. “I feel numb,” Alston said, in tears. Johnston then looked into a camera and said if her husband of 18 years was watching to “please, baby, please come home.”

Johnston said her husband finally was able to call her at about 5:30 p.m. He was still inside the building, waiting his turn to leave.

Alston, who works at Washington Nationals Park, said that like most employees at the secure location, her husband’s phone is taken away when he reports to work every morning.

Even though she said she was worried, she said all she could do was to be “patient and leave it in God’s hands.”

Zahra Farah is a reporter for the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire in Washington D.C. Reach Farah at zahra.farah@shns.com or 202-326-9868.

Nick Prete contributed to this story.

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