Gunman kills 12 in D.C. Navy Yard massacre - HISTORY
Year
2013

Gunman kills 12 in D.C. Navy Yard massacre

On this day in 2013, a 34-year-old man goes on a rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., killing 12 people and wounding several others over the course of an hour before he is fatally shot by police. Investigators later determined that the gunman, Aaron Alexis, a computer contractor for a private information technology firm, had acted alone.

Shortly after 8 a.m., Alexis used his security pass to enter Building 197 at the Navy Yard, a former shipyard, dating to the early 1800s, and weapons plant that now serves as an administrative center for the Navy. At approximately 8:16 a.m., Alexis, armed with a sawed-off Remington 870 shotgun and dressed in a short-sleeve polo shirt and pants, shot his first victim. Over the course of the next hour, he moved through the 630,000-square-foot, multi-level Building 197, the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, gunning down more victims and exchanging fire with law enforcement officials. Alexis was shot and killed by police at 9:25 a.m. The shooting spree caused officials to put part of Washington on lockdown due to initial suspicions that other gunmen might have been involved in the incident; however, by the end of the day, authorities determined that Alexis had acted alone.

A Navy reservist from 2007 to 2011, Alexis began work as a computer technician at the Navy Yard on September 9, 2013. Five days later, at a gun store in Virginia, he purchased the Remington 870 and ammunition used in the attack. Investigators found no evidence that any specific event triggered the deadly massacre, and they believed Alexis shot his victims at random. The shotgun he used (he also took a handgun from one of his victims) was etched with several phrases, including “Better off this way” and “My ELF weapon,” and the FBI announced there was a variety of evidence indicating Alexis was under the “delusional belief” he was being controlled by extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves. In August 2013, Alexis told police in Rhode Island, where he was working, that he was hearing voices. The private IT contracting firm employing Alexis took him off his assignment for a few days then let him back on the job; weeks later, he went to work at the Navy Yard.

The 12 men and women murdered during the September 16th rampage ranged in age from 46 to 73. They were memorialized by President Barack Obama at a September 22, 2013, ceremony in which he remembered them and also issued a call to tighten America’s gun laws.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Massacres at Sabra and Shatila

Hours after the Israeli forces enter West Beirut, Phalangist militiamen begin a massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Within two days, 1,000 men, women, and children were dead.The Phalangists, a Christian faction in Lebanon, were closely allied with ...read more

Mayflower departs England

The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and ...read more

Mexican War of Independence begins

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launches the Mexican War of Independence with the issuing of his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores,” The revolutionary tract, so-named because it was publicly read by Hidalgo in the town of Dolores, called for the end of 300 years ...read more

Maria Callas dies

Celebrated soprano Maria Callas dies in Paris at the age of 53.Born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants, Callas demonstrated her talent for singing at an early age. When she was 13, she went to Athens to study under the noted soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Her first major ...read more

Settlers race to claim land

On this day in 1893, the largest land run in history begins with more than 100,000 people pouring into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim valuable land that had once belonged to Native Americans. With a single shot from a pistol the mad dash began, and land-hungry pioneers ...read more

Opera star Maria Callas dies

“Diva” is a word used rather freely these days to describe those whose talents are matched or exceeded by their tendency to maximize the drama in every situation. But the term originated in the world of opera as shorthand for divina, or “goddess”—a label reserved for the greatest ...read more

James Alan McPherson is born

James Alan McPherson, the first black man to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is born in Savannah, Georgia.McPherson overcame the crushing poverty of his childhood and ultimately attended Harvard Law School. At age 25, he entered a short story contest sponsored by The Atlantic ...read more

Frasier debuts

On this day in 1993, Frasier, a spin-off of the long-running mega-hit sitcom Cheers, makes its debut on NBC; it will go on to air for 11 seasons and win multiple Emmy Awards. Frasier starred Kelsey Grammer as the erudite, snobbish Dr. Frasier Crane, a radio psychiatrist who ...read more

Killer quake shakes Iran

An extremely deadly earthquake rocks Iran, killing more than 25,000 people on this day in 1978. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck the northeastern part of the country, an area that has traditionally seen much seismic activity.Ten years earlier, a 6.5-magnitude quake centered in ...read more

Murder in Illinois

Phineas Wilcox is stabbed to death by fellow Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, because he is believed to be a Christian spy. The murder of Wilcox reflected the serious and often violent conflict between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the surrounding communities. ...read more

United Nations essay contest angers Soviets

On this day, Soviet representatives condemn an essay writing contest sponsored by the United Nations. The incident, though small, indicated that the Cold War was as much a battle of words as a war of bombs and guns. In 1950, the Public Information Department of the United Nations ...read more

William Durant creates General Motors

On September 16, 1908, Buick Motor Company head William Crapo Durant spends $2,000 to incorporate General Motors in New Jersey. Durant, a high-school dropout, had made his fortune building horse-drawn carriages, and in fact he hated cars–he thought they were noisy, smelly, and ...read more