The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Navy Yard last week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low frequency radio waves, and he scratched “end the torment” on the shotgun used in the killings, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the mass shooting.
In addition, Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, confirmed that Aaron Alexis, 34, had a performance issue at work that was addressed the Friday before the shooting. But she said there was no indication that Alexis targeted “anyone he worked for or worked with.” She said a search of Alexis’s phone and laptop indicates that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”
Parlave said the details of Alexis’s mental state come from inscriptions found on his Remington 870 shotgun and documents found on his phone and laptop. In one he wrote: “An ultra low frequency attack is what I’ve been subject to for the last three months, and to be perfectly honest, that is what has driven me to this.”
The FBI officials said authorities are continuing to work to understand Alexis’s “pathway to violence” and his motivation and mental state at the time of the shooting.
Parlave said other etchings on the gun included “not what y’all say” and “better off this way.” Another scratched message, “My ELF weapon!” and other evidence gathered from Alexis’s electronics indicate that he thought he was being controlled by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves, according to the FBI. The Navy has legitimately used such technology, the FBI said, but these radio waves also have been at the center of conspiracies about government mind control.
A backpack Alexis carried into Building 197 the morning of Sept. 16 contained empty boxes of ammunition and numerous computer discs and software, according to search warrant affidavits unsealed Wednesday.
The details offered by authorities and the documents fill in some gaps in the slowly emerging timeline of the rampage, which ended when police fatally shot Alexis in a third-floor cubicle.
Alexis, who worked for Experts IT, a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor that is updating computer systems at Navy and Marine Corps installations, arrived in the Washington area Aug. 25 and stayed for a week in a hotel in Bethesda, the documents state. From Aug. 31 through Sept. 7, he moved to a hotel in Pentagon City, and then went to the Residence Inn in Southwest Washington, where he stayed until the attack. He started at his job in Building 197 at the Navy yard Sept. 9.
Through interviews with co-workers and managers, Parlave said, the FBI had determined that Alexis had what she described as “routine performance issues,” including one addressed the Friday before the shooting.
Parlave did not elaborate on those workplace issues and stressed that Alexis’s targets were random. She said there was no evidence that any single event had triggered the attack.
The next day, the Saturday before the shooting, the FBI said, Alexis purchased a Remington 870 shotgun in Virginia and then went to a home improvement store in Northern Virginia, where he bought items that included a hacksaw. Police said the shotgun was sawed-off at the barrel and stock.
The documents and an FBI statement say that at 7:53 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 16, Alexis parked his blue Toyota Prius Hertz rental car in Parking Garage #28 at the Navy Yard, across from Building 197. He exited carrying a backpack, walked into the building at 8:08 a.m. and went to an elevator. He exited on the fourth floor and went into a men’s bathroom carrying the backpack and clipboard. He then left the bathroom carrying a shotgun.
The backpack later was found hanging on the back of a stall door, a roll of purple duct tape inside.
The documents do not detail the shooting spree, but a short video provided by the FBI shows Alexis in empty hallways, pointing the shotgun. Police received a call reporting an “active shooter” about 8:17 a.m., the FBI said. Officers from Naval District Washington and Naval Criminal Intelligence Service were among the first officers to confront the gunman, authorities said. At least three D.C. police officers, some armed with only handguns, were inside Building 197 before more heavily armed tactical active shooting teams were assembled and entered.
The three agents for the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service worked in Building 197 and were assigned to investigate procurement fraud and offer counter-intelligence support. Officials said they engaged in two firefights with the gunman in two separate sections of the sprawling building. Eight additional agents quickly joined them.
Quoting D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Parlave told reporters that the vast building was a “tactical nightmare” for first responders because of its numerous places for Alexis to take cover and hide.