Last week's tragedy inside the Washington Naval Yard in Southeast Washington, DC has united local residents and Americans throughout the country. As we mourn the loss of innocent victims and offer our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, we must begin asking questions as to how and why the Navy Yard shooting came to pass. Not only can this help victims' families gain a sense of justice, but it can also – hopefully – help reduce the risk of these tragedies repeating themselves in the future.
Although the investigation into what happened on Monday, September 16 is still pending, a number of alarming developments have come to light. Most alarming is the fact that the shooter – Aaron Alexis – had long and well-documented history of erratic and violent behavior, most of which was
overlooked or dismissed by officials or organizations with the ability – and responsibility – to take action, including various local law enforcement agencies, employers, the military, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Red flags in Alexis' past cited by investigators include:
- Three separate arrests in three states – these arrests involved rash acts of violence.
- Two incidents involving a firearm – Alexis fired shots at a vehicle during an anger blackout in Seattle in 2004 and fired a shot through his ceiling into his neighbor's apartment in 2010 during a noise dispute. No charges were ever filed and Alexis was never convicted of a criminal offense.
- Three citations from police for acts of aggression or hallucinations.
- At least four visits to VA hospitals – Overburdened medical staff in VA emergency rooms in Rhode Island and Washington, DC failed to detect signs of Alexis' declining mental stability despite new protocol for screening. VA facilities also failed to provide comprehensive psychological evaluations when he applied for disability benefits.
- Navy Security Officials & the Military – Officials were warned twice by Rhode Island police that Alexis was hearing voices, a clear indicator of mental instability. Officials also failed to intervene when Alexis displayed erratic behavior during his time as a Navy reservist.
- The Department of Defense – The Defense Department approved Alexis for security clearance did not monitor Alexis' security clearance and erratic behavior throughout the years.
- Employer – Alexis worked for an IT consulting company known as The Experts. The Experts failed to appropriately intervene despite Alexis' erratic behavior, failed to notify security officials of his deteriorating mental state, and permitted him to return to work.
- Private Background Check Company – An outside firm hired by The Experts – a government contractor – turned up only "one minor traffic violation" in 2013, and failed to access Alexis' run-ins with the law.
In total, Alexis had a history of erratic behavior and red flags that spanned a total of nine years. Throughout this time, the military, VA hospitals, the police, and his employer failed to detect potential warning signs and failed to communicate among other agencies.
Negligence & Liability
Because these warning signs were never detected, communicated, or used as a basis for providing much needed help, Alexis was able to retain his security clearance, own firearms, and move freely around military and government properties. Many believe that had these missed opportunities been recognized, protocols been followed, and reasonable steps been taken by those in positions of authority, the shooting might have been prevented. Security at the naval base, the private company that performed Alexis' background check, and other parties may also be held liable for their negligence in relation to the shooting.
Representation for Navy Yard Shooting Victims and Families
As a firm that has been representing victims and families throughout the Washington, DC metro area for more than 40 years, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. offers our support and experienced representation to the families who lost loved ones during the Navy Yard shooting. Our Washington, DC wrongful death lawyers can help families obtain justice by holding responsible entities accountable for their failures to recognize red flags.
If you have lost a loved one during the Washington, DC Navy Yard shooting – or if someone you know has suffered losses as the result of the shooting – please contact the Washington, DC personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.