Thirteen people are dead and at least eight others were injured after a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, officials said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities sought to contain the panic.
The incident, in which the death toll rose almost hourly, represents the single worst loss of life in the District since an airliner plunged into the Potomac River in 1982, killing 78.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the mounting number of casualties in a series of news conferences. The suspected shooter, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis, 34, living in Fort Worth, is among the dead. Alexis was a military contractor, one official said.
Hours after the rampage began it remained unclear whether the shooting was the act of a lone gunman, or if other shooters were involved. Lanier initially said authorities were looking for two more potential shooters dressed in military style clothing. Shortly after she announced a detailed description of two suspects, city officials said one had been located and cleared. And at a 10 p.m. news conference she said police were comfortable the shooting had been committed by one person.
Police are asking anyone with information on the suspect to call 202-727-9099.
Lanier lifted the shelter in place order for the neighborhood around the Navy Yard that had been in place for much of the day.
Gray said those killed by the shooter ranged in age from 46-73 years old. He said the families of seven of the victims had been notified. Those victims were identified as: Michael Arnold, 59; Sylvia Frasier, 53; Kathy Gaarde, 62; John Roger Johnson, 73; Frank Kohler, 50; Bernard Proctor, 46; and Vishnu Pandit, 61.
The families of the six other victims were in the process of being notified.
Lanier said one of those killed was a District resident, but she did not identify the person.
Gray said another eight people were injured in the attack. He said three people were shot, including Metropolitan Police Officer Scott Williams. Gray said the officer was doing well.
The other five had either stress related injuries, and at least one was someone who fell.
Vice Adm. Bill French earlier had said that the number of injured was 14.
[For up to the minute information about the shooting, check The Post’s live blog .]
Gray said no motive is known yet. He said there is no reason to believe it was an act of terrorism, though he added that he could not rule it out.
As of 8:30 p.m. Monday, Navy officials said about 2,000 people remained on base, and that it could take another 3-4 hours before everyone was cleared to leave.
The FBI was still interviewing every person leaving the base out of concern that a second suspect may still be at large, French said. And SWAT teams are still finding people hiding in places on the base, where some had remained hunkered down since the initial attack early Monday morning. One city officials said that shortly before 7 p.m., officers found an employee hiding in a locker, where the employee had been for nearly 11 hours.
Throughout the day, people had been warned to stay in their homes and offices on the Naval Base as the incident unfolded.
Alexis was armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, two law enforcement officials said. One said he also had a shotgun. One official said all the weapons have not been accounted for.
The first, sketchy details about the suspect offered few hints about what may have gone wrong.
[Read our full story about Aaron Alexis.]
Alexis grew up in Brooklyn with his mother, Cathleen, and father, Anthony Alexis, according to his aunt Helen Weeks.
“We haven’t seen him for years,” Weeks said of her nephew in a telephone interview. “I know he was in the military. He served abroad. I think he was doing some kind of computer work.”
Alexis spent nearly four years in the Navy as a full-time reservist from May 2007 until he was discharged in January 2011, according to a summary of his personnel records released by Navy officials at the Pentagon.
The officials said they were still researching whether Alexis had been employed as a defense contractor or a civilian employee of the Navy, and were uncertain if he was assigned to work at the Navy Yard.
He achieved his final rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class in December 2009. Officials said they did not immediately know the reasons for his discharge.
The carnage began around 8 a.m. when the U.S. Navy said that three shots were fired at Building 197, headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command. About 3,000 people work in the building. As the noise that some thought sounded like construction work continued, the realization set in that a gunman was firing on them.
Rick Mason, a program management analyst who is a civilian with the U.S. Navy, told the Associated Press that a gunman was shooting from a fourth floor overlook in the hallway outside his office. He said the gunman was aiming at people in the building’s first floor cafeteria.