The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/16/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
Today`s mass shooting at the Navy Yard facility in southwest
Washington, D.C., makes today the deadliest day in our nation`s capitol in
more than 30 years.
January 1982 was when a 737 that had taken off from National Airport,
what we now call Reagan Airport, crashed into the 14th Street Bridge in
Washington and then into the icy Potomac River – 78 people were killed in
that crash that day, including four people who had been on the bring or on
the ground and were hit by the crashing plane.
Incredibly, that same day in Washington, D.C., back in 1982, the same
day as the plane crash, also saw a fatal derailment of a subway in the
city. Three people were killed when the metro derailed in a downtown
tunnel. Those accidents both happened on one day in Washington. But that
terrible day in Washington was 31 years ago.
Four years ago in Washington, there was another Metro train crash
which killed nine people.
But today was the worst day in Washington, D.C., in a generation.
Reporting of the story of what happened today in this mass shooting at the
Navy Yard meant tallying up what seemed to be a new, higher death toll just
about every hour over the course of the day.
The latest information that we have is that 13 people lost their lives
today, including the apparent shooter, and that 14 other people were
injured in the attack. That puts today`s incident in Washington on par
with the Columbine shooting in 1999 or the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater
shooting last summer, or the Binghamton, New York, shooting in 2009 at the
immigration center there, and of course, the Ft. Hood shooting that took
place later that same year, seven months later.
Until we know more about why this happened and how this happened
today, it`s hard to know whether to put this as the latest in a list of
workplace mass shootings, or the latest in a list of random mass shootings
committed by the insane, or the latest in a list of terrorist mass
shootings committed by perpetrators who thought they had a point or that
they were on a mission of some kind.
Initial reports that this was an incident involving multiple shooters
today led to the supposition that this could have been a coordinated attack
and that it, therefore, could more likely be a terrorist incident. But the
multiple-shooter thesis from earlier in the day does not seem at all clear
tonight. Soon after announcing that they were seeking two other people in
addition to the shooter, who was killed at the scene, police today
announced that they had found and cleared one of those two men who they had
asked the public for help in finding.
As the second person police were seeking, we have very little
information. Police said they are seeking to identify and to speak with a
black man in his 40s who has gray sideburns, who was seen wearing an olive
drab military-style uniform. We do not know why law enforcement is seeking
this person, beyond the fact that he was reportedly seen on surveillance
footage in a way that made them want to talk to him.
The FBI has released photos and basic information about the apparent
shooter in the incident who died at the scene. His name is Aaron Alexis,
34 years old. He served just under four years in the Navy Reserves. He
left the service in January 2011.
He never served on active duty. His last posting was in Ft. Worth,
Texas, at the naval air station there. But that was a couple years ago.
Local reporting indicated that he subsequently worked as a waiter at a Thai
restaurant near the naval air station in Ft. Worth. Sources tell NBC News
that he had recently started work as a civilian defense contractor.
At this point, it is only becoming clearer now, we`re only getting
late details tonight as to whether or not that job as a contractor gave him
ties specifically to the Navy Yard facility where the shooting happened
Throughout this story, the lines are blurred between civilian and
military. Obviously, this is a military facility where this happened, but
many, if not most, of the victims appear to have been civilians. Navy Yard
is a relatively secure naval facility with a perimeter fence and marine
guards, but it has many civilian workers. It`s home to the National Museum
of the U.S. Navy, which is open to the public, and it is nestled in the
heart of Washington, D.C.
The Navy Yard is two subway stops and less than two miles away from
the U.S. Capitol building. It`s right next to where the Washington
Nationals baseball team plays. That home game there tonight has been
rescheduled for tomorrow because the stadium is so close to where this
happened. This was an attack on a military headquarters. This was an
attack on the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command.
But this was not removed from civilian life. This happened in the
middle of a major U.S. city.
Some of the victims today were taken to Washington hospital center,
which has a very well regarded trauma center. Because of the toll of gun
violence in the civilian streets of Washington, D.C., Washington hospital
center has extensive, extensive experience treating gunshot wounds, so much
so that Army physicians and Navy physicians train at Washington hospital
center to ramp up their gunshot treatment skills before they deploy into
The chief medical officer for that facility acknowledged that
experience today, that they have had to develop, and then she sort of let
loose with some emotion about what it means about us, what it says about us
as a country, that that combat trauma experience is needed here at home.
Speaking today on a day when it very much was needed here at home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: We see a significant
number of gunshot victims here at the hospital center, and I will tell you
that between working with our partners that are the first responders, who
are excellent at initial stabilization and then bringing them here, we
actually are very, very successful in having people live through these
multiple gunshot wounds.
The other thing that I would mention to you is that we have a very
close relationship with military physicians, and it`s not unusual that we
have Navy or Army physicians who are rotating through the MedStar
Washington Hospital Center. They work with us, they work in our trauma
bay, and it`s an opportunity for them to keep their skills up when they are
in a noncombat situation.
So, we have a close and multiyear relationship with the military. We
see a lot of trauma, and you know, sometimes it`s – sometimes it`s just,
you know, accidents that occur that we get to help people with because
they`re accidents. And then you see what I call senseless trauma, and
there is something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work on
to try and eradicate. I have to say, I may see this every day, I may, you
know, be the chief medical officer of a very large trauma center, but there
is something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these
multiple injuries, there`s something wrong.
And the only thing that I can say is we have to work together to get
rid of it. I`d like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really
I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert
on this. We are. We do it well. Very extreme surgeons at the clinic,
quite frankly, I`d rather they were doing their surgery on other things.
And so, it`s a great city, it`s a great country, and we have to work
together to get rid of this, because we just cannot have, you know, one
more shooting with, you know, so many people killed. We`ve got to figure
this out. We`ve got to be able to help each other. We`re dealing right
now with three innocent people.
But my prayers and my thoughts go out to those people who have died as
a result of today and, you know, their families and what they`re going to
have to go through.
So, I have to say, you know, it`s a challenge to all of us. Let`s get
rid of this. This is – this is not America. This is not Washington, D.C.
This is – this is not good. So, we`ve got to work to get rid of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dr. Janis Orlowski is the chief medical center of the MedStar
Hospital in Washington, D.C., which deals with lots of gunshot injuries all
the time. The doctor there making an emotional plea about this latest mass
shooting in our country today.
As Washington Hospital Center was one of several area hospitals called
on to treat the two dozen casualties of today`s mass shooting. Again, the
death toll at this hour for the Navy Yard shooting stands at 12, plus the
shooter himself, for a total of 13. The number of injured at this hour
stands at 14.
Police say the apparent shooter did die at the scene today, but they
are still looking for another person who was seen surveillance camera
footage. We do not know what this person was seen doing on the footage
that made law enforcement want to speak with him, but he is described as a
black male in his 40s with gray sideburns wearing an olive drab military-
Joining us now is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.
Pete, thanks for being with us. What can you tell us about that
second individual who police say they want to question?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think that that`s
pretty well washed out by now. They won`t completely write it off yet
because they want to try to figure out exactly who this person was that was
seen in the surveillance video carrying what we believe to be a long gun.
But there are some indications that that picture shows the shooter himself.
In any event, there are lots of people authorized to carry weapons on
a military facility like this. Just about everybody I`ve talked to scratch
the just about – everybody I talked to thinks this is the work of one
person. So I think that`s all but washed out.
MADDOW: Pete, in terms of the ongoing nature of this, are there still
people on base, people being kept there by police and law enforcement?
WILLIAMS: Yes, they still are for a couple of reasons. One is the
FBI wants to interview anybody who saw the shooting, wants to talk to them.
So, there`s that.
Secondly, the Navy wants to do a careful census, count heads, take
attendance of everybody who is accounted for so that they can keep careful
records. And then you have this fact that the D.C. police department still
is trying to check out this report of another person, which I think is
going to turn out to be a washout, but they are just being very careful.
And so, for all those reasons – that`s right, everybody hasn`t gone
MADDOW: Wow. Have you learned any more details late today and
tonight about this alleged shooter, Aaron Alexis? We`ve got reports today
that he did have some relatively minor criminal history, also some
interesting reports about his status as a defense contractor.
How does that relate potential access to this site?
WILLIAMS: Well, he certainly had access to the site. There`s no
question about that. What we believe is that he came up here the last
couple of days to work with a team of contractors on a military computer
project and that they were staying in a hotel, a residence inn right near
the Washington Navy Yard, and that`s how he – that`s why he was so up
Still not 100 percent clear whether he was going to work at the Navy
Yard today or whether he just was near the Navy Yard, but he has a Navy
connection. He was in the naval reserve, he was an electronics specialist.
He worked in several places. He worked in Ft. Worth, Texas. He`s
originally from New York. His parents still live there.
As far as his criminal past, three years ago, he was arrested for
firing a weapon that went into the apartment above him, didn`t hurt
anybody. The police questioned him. He said he was cleaning his gun but
he was charged with that.
And nine years ago when he was living in Seattle, police charged him
with shooting out the tires of a car that was driven by some workers who
were parking near where he lived. He told them that the shooting was the
result of what he called an anger-fueled blackout.
And at the time, Seattle police say they called his father, who was
still living in New York, who said that his son had some anger management
issues and that he`s had them ever since he helped rescue people in New
York City on 9/11.
Now, we know that he`s had a history of treatment for psychiatric
issues, and authorities are saying tonight they believe that he was rapidly
Whether he had some specific grievance with the Navy, we just don`t
know, but it would appear that his mental past, his mental stability is in
question and may have been a contributing factor here.
MADDOW: Pete, is there confirmation that he was, in fact, a first
responder or some sort of emergency responder on 9/11? Do we know that or
is that just from the Seattle PD at this point?
WILLIAMS: It`s from his father, and that would be very, very
difficult to confirm. You know, so many people responded. That`s what his
Whether it`s true or not, we don`t know. Whether they know for sure
or not, we don`t know. I guess we have to assume it`s true.
What it has to do with anything, who knows?
MADDOW: One last question for you, Pete. What do we know about the
weapons that he may have had, and does that tell us anything about what it
might have taken for him to get that kind of weaponry into the Navy Yard
WILLIAMS: Sure, good questions. And I guess I have two answers to
that. There`s nothing that we know of in his past, even though he had
treatment at V.A. hospitals for some psychiatric issues, nothing that would
have disqualified him from buying a weapon.
Remember that the federal standard is a judged mentally incompetent.
That`s the phrase in the federal law, or mentally defective I think is
actually the word that the statute uses. So, a judge has to make a finding
that you`re – you have a mental problem that would disqualify you, not
merely that you have psychiatric problems.
So, the weapon, we believe, was purchased just within the past few
days, just last week at a gun store in Lorton, Virginia, which is about 20
miles from Washington, D.C. It takes about an hour to drive there on the
very crowded Interstate 95, but it`s right nearby here. We believe, or at
least the investigators tell me they believe that he came to the Navy Yard
today carrying only that shotgun.
That once he shot his way in, that he then grabbed two other weapons,
taking an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, perhaps from the guard station there,
and then shooting a law enforcement officer and taking the officer`s
handgun so that by the time he was shot and killed, they recovered three
weapons. The shotgun they believe he had in the first place and the other
two that he picked up along the way.
MADDOW: Stunning. That`s absolutely stunning.
NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams – Pete, thank you very
much. Appreciate you being here. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: You bet. OK.
MADDOW: All right, more on who the apparent shooter was today. We`ll
have a live report from one of the places where he reportedly worked before
coming to Washington, D.C.
Plus, there`s lots more ahead.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are confronting yet
another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in
our nation`s capital. It`s a shooting that targeted our military and
civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work doing
their job protecting all of us. They`re patriots. And they know the
dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence
that they wouldn`t have expected here at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Much more about today`s mass shooting at the Navy Yard in
Washington, including new details still coming in over the course of
tonight. Stay with us. We`ve got more ahead, next.
MADDOW: The city of Washington has oddly shaped borders. You can
tell from the shape of the city that it did not form organically as an
obvious place for a city. You can see from its shape that they had to
carve it out of existing land in Maryland and Virginia.
What ended up looking like kind of a bite out of Maryland started off
in the 1790s as George Washington`s idea of a city whose borders would be
basically a perfect square.
Well, over time, the borders ended up looking instead like this, with
one of e sides of the square becoming the Potomac River.
Still, though, the city itself is in four quadrants. You have to
really pay attention to whether there is a northwest or a southeast or
something, appended to the end of your state address in Washington because
the city is divided into those four corners, and there is an intersection
of say 6th Street and G Street in each of those four quadrants. So, you
need to know which one you`re supposed to be in.
The spot where those four quadrants come together is the U.S. Capitol,
on Capitol Hill, the building that houses the House and the Senate, right?
The geographic center of the city. It was on lockdown for a good part of
the day today because it is close to the scene of today`s mass shooting at
the Washington Navy Yard.
The Navy Yard sits on the banks of the Anacostia River. It`s the
oldest military installation in the country. It was built in 1799 and has
been in operation ever since, except for the time when we burnt it down
ourselves on purpose to keep the British from getting their hands on it in
the war of 1812, when the British stormed D.C. and burned down the White
House. But aside from that, we`ve been using it the whole time.
Today, something like 16,000 civilian and uniformed personnel work at
the Washington Navy Yard. There are several entrances to the grounds. All
of the entrances are guarded by U.S. marines and by other security
The grounds are big. There`s more than 2 million square feet of
office space there, dozens and dozens of buildings.
The building where today`s shooting took place is called building 197.
It`s the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command. On any given day,
there is something like 3,000 people working in that one command alone.
The Naval Sea Systems Command is responsible for designing and
building and engineering ships and weapons for the U.S. Navy. Building 197
is described as a high-security facility, but interestingly, it also serves
as an entrance for visitors who want to access the Navy Yard.
So, if you want to get into other parts of the yard, you have to go
through building 197. Employees have to show ID, they have to show their
badges and they go through locking turnstiles. Visitors have to go through
security, and usually, they have to be pre-cleared in order to enter the
At one of the many law enforcement press conferences today updating
the public on the ongoing and fast-moving developments of the story, one of
the very first questions from reporters was – do you have any idea how the
shooter got into the building? How could the shooter access this high-
security building at the Navy Yard?
Authorities at one of those press conferences, as soon as they were
asked that, said they do not know, and it remains one of the many
unanswered questions still tonight.
Joining us now is NBC News national security producer Courtney Kube.
Courtney, thanks very much for being here tonight. I know it`s been
an exhausting day.
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS PRODUCER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, this building where the shooting took place, the Pentagon
is part of your beat. You`ve done a lot of reporting on military
institutions in Washington. Tell us about this site at the Navy Yard.
This is the headquarters of the Sea Systems Command.
KUBE: It is, right. It`s the Navy Sea Systems Command building,
where the shooting took place today.
So, basically, you know, you mentioned there`s about 3,000 people that
work in that building. Those people themselves have a building access
badge. They have something that they go through a turnstile, they swipe a
badge, they show an officer their ID.
So, there`s a picture on there. They have to show a visual
confirmation to an officer that they are who they are swiping in to be.
And then they can access the building.
Well, you also mentioned visitors. Basically, anyone who has a common
access card, which is a card that most members of the military, many DOD,
Department of Defense officials have, if they have that card, they can
access the Navy Yard and Navy Sea Systems Command as long as they show that
and go through a visitors` entrance, and they get magged, they get swiped,
they go through security, but they can actually access the building with
their common access card.
MADDOW: We don`t know yet about whether or not this young man`s
employment as a civilian government contractor working in IT, his apparent
security clearance we`re learning tonight, we don`t know whether those
things would have gotten him in the door. We heard from Pete Williams just
moments ago that it seems like what may have happened in terms of his
weapons is that he showed up with a shotgun, blasted his way in far enough
to then claim other weapons from other people who he attacked on his way
Do you have any sense of how far he would be able to get if he didn`t
have a badge to get in? Would he be up against armed guards or people who
could repel an invasion before that point?
KUBE: Oh, absolutely. I think it`s probably likely at this point.
So, the security contractor he was working for, he did sort of basic IT
work. But this basic work involved going through the Navy Marine Corps
intranet system, basically, the Navy and the Marine Corps`s internal
So, he wouldn`t necessarily need a very high-level security clearance
for that, but he would need some level of a security clearance just to do
the job that he was hired to do.
So, I think what`s more likely is he either had some sort of a
military ID, he had some sort of a common access card, something like that
that would have been able to get him on to the base, potentially into Navy
Sea Systems Command as a visitors, or frankly, if he was there doing some
sort of a contracting job, he may have had someone who would have even
escorted him in the building.
MADDOW: Courtney, in terms of the ongoing nature of this, we`re just
talking with Pete about how there still are a lot of people who are still
on site at Navy Yard not being let out to go home yet. They`re still
maintaining this is an active investigation.
As somebody who covers this part of Washington and deals with
government officials who cover this part of policy, how disruptive is this
going to continue to be as this investigation continues? Can you tell yet?
KUBE: Oh, I mean, tremendously disruptive. Think about, there`s
thousands of people who are working in this building, who were working at
the Navy Yard today. For one thing, just on a very basic level, they
couldn`t get their cars out. They couldn`t drive themselves home at the
end of the day. Everything is locked down.
Many of them – they sheltered in place. They don`t have their
purses. They don`t have their briefcases. They may not have their house
So, I mean, on a personal level, it`s very disruptive for those
people. On a larger scale, this is a tremendous asset to the U.S. Navy,
this Navy Sea Systems Command and the naval yard in general, and it`s
basically, it`s on a virtual standstill right now. The Navy Yard is
operating on only the most limited personnel tonight and tomorrow, and
potentially for the next several days while the FBI continues their
MADDOW: Courtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News and an
invaluable asset to all of us covering this stuff. Courtney, thank you
very much for being with us tonight. I appreciate it.
KUBE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: If it seems like mass shootings like we saw today are
becoming more common, that`s because they are becoming more common. We
will have more on that coming up. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got a report on the fourth floor, a male
with a shotgun. Multiple shots fired. Multiple people down. We`re still
waiting for the OK that the scene has been secured.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t feel secure coming into government
buildings anymore. I`ve not worked in government for almost 37 years.
FREEDOM MUSHAW, WITNESS: We`ll recover from it. And we`ll fix our
problems and move on.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORLOWSKI: I may see this every day, I may, you know, be the chief
medical officer of a very large trauma center, but there is something wrong
here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries,
there`s something wrong. And the only thing that I think say is we have to
work together to get rid of it.
I`d like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would.
I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not be an expert on this -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s part of the remarkable press conference at about 4:00
eastern this afternoon. That was the chief medical officer at the
Washington Hospital Center, where some of the victims of today`s shooting
at the Navy Yard received treatment.
That doctor`s name is Janet Orlowski, and coincidentally and
amazingly, she had given her one-month notice earlier this morning that she
was leaving her job. She`s leaving her job as of next month. She had just
given her notice when this incident today happened.
Dr. Orlowski`s appearance, both in terms of the information she
provided and her presence was fairly riveting and moving, and tonight she
is going to be the guest of Lawrence O`Donnell on “THE LAST WORD,” which is
coming up right after our show.
We will all be tuning in to hear that and I hope you will, too.
Much more still ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Breaking news for you. We have some new information from NBC
News`s investigative unit about this ongoing investigation into the mass
shooting at the Navy Yard.
According to law enforcement sources in Washington, authorities tell
NBC News that they have located Aaron Alexis`s rental car in a garage
across the street from the building where the shooting occurred.
Authorities are in the process of obtaining warrants to search the car and
to search the hotel rooms of Aaron Alexis and his fellow contractors at the
residence inn where they were reportedly staying in southwest Washington,
These same sources tell NBC News that it appears – this is about how
the incident actually went down and may be getting at some of the difficult
questions we`ve been asking about how he got access to this secure
The same law enforcement sources in Washington are now telling NBC
News that it appears that Aaron Alexis entered the building armed and that
one of the first persons who was shot was the security guard at the
entrance. It is believed that Mr. Alexis then took the guard`s sidearm and
either picked up the assault rifle from a safe/cabinet nearby or the guard
was also armed with a long gun.
So, as Pete Williams was suggesting earlier this hour, having one
weapon when he approached the building, shooting a security guard and
taking either one or two guns off of that guard or away from that guard
post. Evidence collection team said to be expected on the scene throughout
the day tomorrow. They are still determining the number of rounds fired.
But again, the two pieces here of information are the reported
locating of the rental car in a garage across the street from the building
where the shooting happened and at least reports from law enforcement
sources in Washington about how accessing the building may have happened,
including with those weapons. It was about 2:30 p.m. Eastern today when
NBC`s Pete Williams reported that officials had identified the man who
allegedly opened fire at the Navy Yard, killed 12 people before he himself
The man is Aaron Alexis, 34 years old. According to his aunts, he
grew up in Brooklyn, New York, with his mother and his father and his
brother. He had been in the Navy Reserve for about four years. We
continue to learn more about him as each hour passes.
But here`s the basics of what we know so far. He did serve in the
naval reserves, but he was never on active duty. He never deployed to a
war zone. He joined up in the spring of 2007 and was out of the naval
reserve by 2011.
His last posting was at the naval air station in Ft. Worth, Texas. He
worked there at the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron.
Outside of his time of the Navy, we know of two incidents in which Mr.
Alexis was arrested. The first was in 2004, May 2004, in Seattle. He was
arrested for shooting out the tires of somebody else`s vehicle.
According to the police report, which was released publicly by the
Seattle Police Department today, Mr. Alexis would have been roughly 25
years old at the time. He shot out the rear tires of a vehicle that was
parked next to his home.
The car was parked by construction workers in the driveway of a work
site that was next to where he was living. Apparently, they were building
a house next door and they were parked at that site.
Here`s how the detective in the case explained his confession, quote,
“I obtained a post-Miranda confession from Alexis. He explained how he
perceived that the construction workers had directed him and how that
perception led to what Mr. Alexis described as a blackout fueled by anger.
He said he did not remember pulling the trigger of his firearm until about
an hour after he did it. Mr. Alexis also told me,” says the detective,
“how he was present during the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, and
how those events had disturbed him.”
The following morning, the detective says, “I received a personal
communication,” well, “P/C,” I assume that`s personal communication, “from
Mr. Alexis`s father, who lives in New York City. I explained to him the
facts of the case.
Mr. Alexis then told me that his son had experienced anger management
problems that the family believed to be associated with PTSD, post-
traumatic stress. He confirms that his son was an active participant in
rescue attempts on September 11th, 2001.
And none of that is confirmed at that point, but that is what is in
the Seattle Police Department`s report for that arrest in 2004. Again, of
the man who police say was the shooter at the Navy Yard in Washington,
D.C., today. The same man was arrested again in 2010 in Ft. Worth, Texas.
That police report from the Ft. Worth police describes an incident in
which Mr. Alexis shot a hole through the ceiling of his apartment and the
bullet went through the ceiling of his apartment into the floor of the
apartment above him. The neighbor in the apartment above him said she was
terrified of Mr. Alexis, said he had confronted her in the past about noise
in the building, and she said she thought the shooting must have been
Mr. Alexis told police it was an accident, that he was cleaning the
gun, didn`t know it was loaded and went off accidentally. He was charged
in that case with accidental – excuse me, with illegal discharge of a
For sometime, Mr. Alexis reportedly worked as a waiter at this Thai
restaurant in Ft. Worth, not too far from the naval air station where he
used to be stationed. His friends and former employers at the restaurant
profess to be mystified as to why he would do something like what he`s
accused of today.
But the very latest coming in tonight is that Mr. Alexis may have been
connected to the Navy currently through a job as a civilian contractor.
A spokesman for the Hewlett-Packard Company releasing this statement
tonight: “We are deeply saddened by today`s tragic events at the Washington
Navy Yard. Our thoughts and sympathies are with all those who have been
affected. Aaron Alexis was an employee of a company called The Experts, a
subcontractor to an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment
used on the Navy Marine Corps intranet network. HP is cooperating fully
with law enforcement as requested.”
“The Washington Post” is further reporting tonight that Aaron Alexis
would have had a government contractor access card allowing him into the
navy facility. His security clearance was reportedly updated in July.
What else about his background may shed light on why this happened?
And maybe more specifically now on how this happened today.
Joining us now from Ft. Worth, Texas, is NBC News` Charles Hadlock.
Mr. Hadlock, Charles, thanks very much for your time tonight.
CHARLES HADLOCK, NBC NEWS: Hi, there.
MADDOW: So, what sort of footprint did Aaron Alexis leave in Ft.
Worth? What do people there know about him and how are they reacting
HADLOCK: Well, Rachel, most of his life centered around this place,
the happy bowl restaurant here in northwest Ft. Worth. This is where he
worked. This is where he met the owner of this restaurant at the Buddhist
temple just down the street from here.
They became fast friends. They even became roommates for several
years. They lived in several different places here in Ft. Worth. And
Alexis, Aaron Alexis even worked here as a waiter.
He worked so well that he even picked up the language of Thailand and
he was pretty fluent in it, according to the people who visited this
restaurant. They said he was a friendly guy and a calm guy. And that`s
what is so out of character about what happened today. They just can`t
seem to reconcile the two facts here. And that`s what is mystifying the
people here in Ft. Worth, Rachel.
We`ve seen these reports, or we`ve read reference to his family
describing anger management problems. We`ve heard reports tonight that he
may have been treated for psychological trauma of some kind. His family
attributing his anger management problems to possible post-traumatic
Is any of that echoed in what you are hearing from people who knew him
in Ft. Worth, or is that a totally hidden part of his life?
HADLOCK: Yes, it`s a hidden part. All these tidbits of information
that you`ve been reporting over the last few minutes, the people here in
Ft. Worth are learning virtually for the first time about the man they
called their friend. The incidents with the gun in Seattle, the other one
here in Ft. Worth, they said they never knew about that. They never knew
the severity of it.
But one thing a friend did say to us that said looking back on it, it
was kind of disturbing, that Alexis was obsessed with online, violent video
games, that every time they went over to his apartment or to his house, he
was in his room with headphones on, communicating with other people online
and playing these very violent games, the types where you have a weapon and
you round the corner and shoot not targets but people, and they even
halfway joked about it, saying, man, you`re 34 years old, you need to get a
life here. And he said, well, this is my life, or words to that effect.
He enjoyed playing the video games. Whether that had any affect on
his actions today, we just don`t know.
MADDOW: Charles, do we know anything about what authorities still
want to know about his background and his history, what police are still
trying to find out about him?
HADLOCK: Well, we know that he was roommates with another man in
this, the same shopping area here, after the owner of the Thai restaurant
got married, Alexis had to move out and he had to find another roommate.
And KXAS TV is on the scene of that roommate`s house. They knocked on the
door and the FBI answered.
So, they`re trying to get some answers from the man as well. So, it`s
an unfolding story here in Ft. Worth about just who Aaron Alexis was.
MADDOW: NBC News` Charles Hadlock reporting from Ft. Worth. Charles,
thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate your time tonight,
MADDOW: All right. More to come on today`s mass shooting at the D.C.
Navy Yard, plus lots more. Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CMDR. TIM JIRUS, U.S. NAVY: An individual who came from the building
behind us, I mean, this building. He came up and was talking to me,
basically saying, hey, there`s a shooter in your building. Then I heard
two more shots. One of them hit him. He went down in front of me and I
took off from there.
REPORTER: The guy you were with?
JIRUS: The guy I was talking to.
REPORTER: Got shot?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just so you know what`s going on right now, we are awaiting a
press conference that is due to start soon from law enforcement in
Washington, D.C. Obviously, everybody is covering this story as
aggressively as we all can today, but to be honest, in live, ongoing
investigations like this, we are often getting the most specific,
confirmed, concrete information about what is really going on from these
official press conferences.
They`ve happened every couple of hours throughout the day today. We
know that the FBI is taking the lead on this case. The next one is just a
few minutes. You see them getting the podium ready for it there. We`re
told that we`re going to be hearing from them at the top of the hour at
10:00 p.m. Eastern.
So, stay tuned for that. We`ll have that live right here. Stay with
MADDOW: On the morning of September 6th, 1949, a 28-year-old local
man in Camden, New Jersey, left his house and started walking up and down
River Road in his neighborhood, the neighborhood where he lived, and he
started shooting people. He was armed with a Luger pistol that he bought
as a war souvenir.
He shot the man who ran the pharmacy, he shot a little kid, he shot
the newlywed wife of the local tailor. He killed 13 people that day,
September 6th, 1949. At the time, the Camden walk of death was considered
the worst mass murder in our nation`s history.
One survivor speaking 50 years later told the reporter, my memories do
not dim. Do you know how many times in 50 years I have relived that story?
That killer from Camden, New Jersey, was considered unfit for trial.
He was considered to be too insane, so he was never tried for that mass
killing in New Jersey. He spent the rest of his life confined to a secure
mental facility. And ultimately, he died just a few years ago.
That massacre in Camden, New Jersey, is the earliest one on a list of
the dozen deadliest mass shootings in the United States. These are only
the worst, with the highest death tolls – mass killings where at least 12
people died not including the shooter, going back to Camden, New Jersey, in
American mass shootings are a frequent enough occurrence now that they
have almost become a regular part of our news expectations. We think of
the stories almost as the kinds of stories we already know the terrible
details. Oh, I know how this is going to go.
But they have not always been as frequent as they are now. After the
1949 shooting, the next big one does not happen until nearly two decades
later, in 1966, when a gunman climbed to the bell tower at the University
of Texas and shot 16 people to death before he was killed by police.
It was nearly two decades after that that we got the next entry on the
list, when a shooter killed 21 people at a McDonald`s in San Isidro,
California. That was 1984.
Right after that, 1986, our nation suffered the worst in a string of
post office massacres, 14 dead plus the gunman in Edmond, Oklahoma.
But look at the overall frequency across time as we chart it here.
Again, these are only the worst incidents where the gunmen killed at least
12 other people. After that post office shooting, we get the Luby`s
Cafeteria massacre in Killeen, Texas, the gunman killing 23 people and then
himself that day in 1991.
Here, we have the massacre at Columbine high school in Littleton,
Colorado, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and then
killed themselves. That brings us to 1999.
So, you can see, we are now half way through the list of the dozen
worst mass shootings in U.S. history, and it has taken us 50 years to get
there. These are terrible events with at least a dozen people killed. It
takes us half a century to do half of them.
And the other half begins here, in 2007 at Virginia Tech, when a
student armed with a pair of semiautomatic weapons killed 32 people before
taking his own life. That was April 2007.
In 2009, we had a pair of mass shooting shootings. In Binghamton, New
York, it was a former student at an immigration center who killed 13 people
and then himself. Just seven months later, it was an army psychiatrist who
opened fire at the soldier readiness processing center at Fort Hood in
Texas, killing 13 people in what he later described as an act of war. Last
month, he was convicted and sentenced to death for those murders in 2009.
But these things are coming faster now. In 2012, the nation again
suffered not one but two of the worst massacres in our history. July 2012,
a deranged young man goes into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and
starts shooting, using multiple guns and an ammunition magazine that held
100 bullets. He killed 12 people that night. He wounded 70 others.
Five months later, on December 14th, the single gunman walks into
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, with multiple weapons
and high capacity magazines. He kills 20 kids and six adults at the
school, plus his mom at home before the attack and then he kills himself.
And then today, the newest entry on the awful list of worst mass
killings in America, as 12 people are shot and killed, not including the
alleged gunman who was found dead at the scene, 12 people today killed at
the U.S. Navy Yard in DC.
All of these are terrible stories taken individually, unimaginable
terrible. But put them together and remember the first half of that list,
that awful list is scattered across half a century like this. Each of
these killings cost the nation simply untellable grief. The kind of pain
where witnesses are still not recovered 50 years later and they were the
ones who survived.
But, look at this – the first half of this awful list happens across
half a century. The rest of it, the other half dozen of the worst killings
in our history, takes only half a dozen years from 2007 until now, until
today, from Virginia Tech to the Navy Yard. The bloodshed of half a
century compressed into this blink of time.
It took us 50 years to get from here to here. It took us only six
years to get from here to here.
A professor at the University of Maryland first charted this for us
after the shooting at Newtown. At the time, Professor Charles Quitana (ph)
said if you look at the way it added up, this was probably the scariest
data he had ever plotted. And that was before today when 12 more people
We know very little so far about what happened today in that Navy
Yard. Taken as a whole, the list of worst mass shootings in America has
almost as many so-called explanations as it has entries. In many cases,
the shooter was mentally ill. In at least one the shooter seems to be at
least partly politically/religiously motivated. Sometimes the shooter`s
friends and relatives saw warning signs. Sometimes there seems to have
been no warning, or almost no warning.
We have long been mystified when it comes to understanding the
motivations of the super violent and we seem just as mystified now about
how to stop them in the first place. Whether or not you like the idea of
additional gun regulations, if you thought that Newtown, or Aurora, or
Columbine before that was going to lead to meaningful national policy
changes to at least try to stop these incidents, if you thought, for
example, that they might affect the regulation of firearms and ammunition,
maybe even just as they relate to mental illness, you are still waiting for
But if you have been thinking that we live in an era that is more
marked by this type of mass bloodshed than any era before now, then I am
sad to tell you that you are right. It did not used to be this way. But
more and more, over time, this is part of how we live now.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a good night.
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