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Government is an unnecessary evil.  Human beings, when accustomed to taking responsibility for their own behavior, can cooperate on a basis of mutual trust and helpfulness.”
— Fred Woodworth
 The Match!, No. 79

Moment by moment: How the Navy Yard shooting unfolded

For more than 30 agonizing minutes, Aaron Alexis stalked his human prey with a 12-gauge shotgun, eluding several attempts by law enforcement officers to gun him down, police said Tuesday.

Details emerging about the chaotic morning of violence at Washington, D.C.’s, Navy Yard paint a picture of man with a calculated plan bent on indiscriminately killing as many people as he could.

He slayed 12 before police ended his life in a gunbattle.

HOW DID IT HAPPEN?: Contractors stunned by security clearance

Federal investigators believe Alexis, an hourly computer tech employed by a Navy contractor, cleared a security checkpoint at the Navy Yard’s entrance with his contractor identification badge. A federal official knowledgeable about the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly said investigators believe Alexis carried a disassembled 12-gauge shotgun into building 197 and reassembled it in a men’s room before he went to an upper floor and began shooting into the building’s central atrium.

The first 911 call came in to a police dispatcher between 8:15 a.m. and 8:20 a.m., D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. A tweet from the U.S. Navy confirmed a report of three shots fired at 8:20 a.m. Within two minutes, Lanier said, two police units responded. Within four minutes, five to seven additional police units had entered the Navy Yard gates and were responding to a flurry of calls from several buildings reporting gunshots, she said.

QUESTIONS EMERGE: Why was Alexis able to buy guns?

Seven minutes after the initial call, police officers outside Building 197 heard shots and immediately entered the building, Lanier said.

As alarms sounded and workers fled, federal investigators believe, Alexis ran down a flight of stairs where he confronted and shot a security officer, took the officer’s handgun and returned to the balcony overlooking the atrium, where he continued to shoot, the federal official said.

At some point, the federal official said, Alexis again left the overlook and confronted a victim described as a maintenance person or building staffer. Alexis allegedly shot that person and returned one last time to the overlook, where he was killed in a confrontation with police.

A guard stands outside the gate to the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C. Thirteen people, including the gunman, were killed during a shooting at the facility a day earlier.Flowers rest on an anchor at the gate at the Washington Navy Yard.A guard checks the identification cards as U.S. Navy personnel enter the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 17.A guard stops an employee at the gate. Only essential personnel were allowed into the facility the day after the massacre.A wreath placed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stands next to a statue of a sailor at the Navy Memorial during a ceremony commemorating the victims of a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, right, attends a ceremony for victims of the Sept. 16 shooting.Flags around the Washington Monument fly at half-staff following the deadly shootings at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16.A member of the Navy has her ID checked as only essential personnel are allowed into a closed Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 17, the day after a gunman sprayed bullets on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallways at the military installation.U.S. Navy security personnel guard the Washington Navy Yard.A member of the U.S. Navy walks away from the front gate of the Washington Navy Yard.A military police officer checks a woman's identification.Police officers conduct an identification check at the front gate of the Washington Navy Yard.Staff of the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters exchange a salute on Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C.A man and woman greet at a gathering point for family members of Navy Yard employees that was set up inside Nationals Park in the wake of the shooting in Washington.Two men embrace at a gathering at Nationals Park.People exit the Washington Navy Yard main gate after a mass shooting Monday, Sept. 16.Aaron Alexis, who has been identified as the slain gunman of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C.Washington D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier, with Mayor Vincent Gray behind, speaks about the shooting at the Navy Yard.A couple walks away from a gathering point for families that was set up inside Washington Nationals Park in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, DC.People exit the Navy Yard main gate and head for their vehicles after the mass shooting Monday in Washington, D.C.People exit a building with their hands up after a shooting on Sept. 16 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.A U.S. Park Service helicopter with a sharpshooter on board patrols the Washington Navy Yard.U.S. Marines guard the parking structure of the Marine Barracks after the shooting.A soldier guards an area at the Washington Navy Yard.District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, right, speaks during a news conference on M Street near the Washington Navy Yard.Police officers block a street near the Washington Navy Yard.A law enforcement official secures the scene at the M Street subway station after a shooting at the nearby Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C. Multiple people were reported killed and injured.Emergency vehicles leave the Washington Navy Yard.Police block M Street in Washington.Armed federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives take up positions on the 11th Street Bridge.Armed emergency law enforcement personnel enter the main gate at the Washington Navy Yard.Law enforcement officials work at the scene of the shooting.A person is evacuated by helicopter.A U.S. Park Service helicopter patrols the Washington Navy Yard.Law enforcement and rescue personnel respond to the shooting.A U.S. Park Police helicopter removes a man from the Washington Navy Yard.A U.S. Park Police helicopter patrols over the Washington Navy Yard.Law enforcement officials and rescue personnel work at the scene of the shooting.Police bring equipment into a building at the Navy Yard.First responders converge on the Washington Navy Yard.Law enforcement personnel respond to the shooting in Southeast Washington.Police secure the scene near the Washington Navy Yard.Police officers work on M Street S.E. in Washington.Police respond to a shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.Police officers prepare their equipment as they secure the area.Police respond to a shooting.Brittany Carter of Bowie, MD. is overcome with emotion during a vigil at Freedom Plaza on Monday in Washington, DC.A small group holds a candle light vigil on Freedom Plaza to remember the victims of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, Monday.

  • A guard stands outside the gate to the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C. Thirteen people, including the gunman, were killed during a shooting at the facility a day earlier.
  • Flowers rest on an anchor at the gate at the Washington Navy Yard.
  • A guard checks the identification cards as U.S. Navy personnel enter the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 17.
  • A guard stops an employee at the gate. Only essential personnel were allowed into the facility the day after the massacre.
  • A wreath placed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stands next to a statue of a sailor at the Navy Memorial during a ceremony commemorating the victims of a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, right, attends a ceremony for victims of the Sept. 16 shooting.
  • Flags around the Washington Monument fly at half-staff following the deadly shootings at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16.
  • A member of the Navy has her ID checked as only essential personnel are allowed into a closed Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 17, the day after a gunman sprayed bullets on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallways at the military installation.
  • U.S. Navy security personnel guard the Washington Navy Yard.
  • A member of the U.S. Navy walks away from the front gate of the Washington Navy Yard.
  • A military police officer checks a woman's identification.
  • Police officers conduct an identification check at the front gate of the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Staff of the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters exchange a salute on Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C.
  • A man and woman greet at a gathering point for family members of Navy Yard employees that was set up inside Nationals Park in the wake of the shooting in Washington.
  • Two men embrace at a gathering at Nationals Park.
  • People exit the Washington Navy Yard main gate after a mass shooting Monday, Sept. 16.
  • Aaron Alexis, who has been identified as the slain gunman of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C.
  • Washington D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier, with Mayor Vincent Gray behind, speaks about the shooting at the Navy Yard.
  • A couple walks away from a gathering point for families that was set up inside Washington Nationals Park in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, DC.
  • People exit the Navy Yard main gate and head for their vehicles after the mass shooting Monday in Washington, D.C.
  • People exit a building with their hands up after a shooting on Sept. 16 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
  • A U.S. Park Service helicopter with a sharpshooter on board patrols the Washington Navy Yard.
  • U.S. Marines guard the parking structure of the Marine Barracks after the shooting.
  • A soldier guards an area at the Washington Navy Yard.
  • District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, right, speaks during a news conference on M Street near the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Police officers block a street near the Washington Navy Yard.
  • A law enforcement official secures the scene at the M Street subway station after a shooting at the nearby Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C. Multiple people were reported killed and injured.
  • Emergency vehicles leave the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Police block M Street in Washington.
  • Armed federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives take up positions on the 11th Street Bridge.
  • Armed emergency law enforcement personnel enter the main gate at the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Law enforcement officials work at the scene of the shooting.
  • A person is evacuated by helicopter.
  • A U.S. Park Service helicopter patrols the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Law enforcement and rescue personnel respond to the shooting.
  • A U.S. Park Police helicopter removes a man from the Washington Navy Yard.
  • A U.S. Park Police helicopter patrols over the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Law enforcement officials and rescue personnel work at the scene of the shooting.
  • Police bring equipment into a building at the Navy Yard.
  • First responders converge on the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Law enforcement personnel respond to the shooting in Southeast Washington.
  • Police secure the scene near the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Police officers work on M Street S.E. in Washington.
  • Police respond to a shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.
  • Police officers prepare their equipment as they secure the area.
  • Police respond to a shooting.
  • Brittany Carter of Bowie, MD. is overcome with emotion during a vigil at Freedom Plaza on Monday in Washington, DC.
  • A small group holds a candle light vigil on Freedom Plaza to remember the victims of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, Monday.

MORE ON SHOOTER: He reported hearing voices through walls

Police locked down the Navy base. Around 9 a.m., workers in other buildings were told to stay in their offices with the doors closed. In one neighboring building, police evacuated the workers to the lowest floor of a concrete parking structure at 10:30 a.m. Workers said they remained there for two hours before they were moved to a food court. Employees were allowed to leave around 3 p.m., but those who drove could not retrieve their cars. Alexis’ car was found in the Navy Yard parking lot, police said.

Lanier said law enforcement officials engaged in “multiple” gunbattles with Alexis.

“I don’t have the exact time of the final engagement,” Lanier said. She said the shooting lasted “more than a half hour from start to finish,” but less than an hour. Reporters near the scene heard the last gunshots before 10 a.m.

Lanier said workers were asked to “shelter in place” while police worked to determine whether additional shooters were on the scene. Police initially sought two other men. Both men had been cleared by Monday night.

“We had information that we could not dismiss,” she said. “We erred on the side of caution.”


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