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D.C. gunman heard voices

Had been undergoing treatment, police said

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An armed officer, who said he was from the Department of Defence, stands guard at the front gate of the Washington Navy Yard Tuesday.

OLIVIER DOULIERY / ABACA PRESS / MCT Enlarge Image

An armed officer, who said he was from the Department of Defence, stands guard at the front gate of the Washington Navy Yard Tuesday.

WASHINGTON -- A month before he went on the rampage that left 13 dead, Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis complained to police in Rhode Island people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel rooms and sending microwave vibrations into his body to prevent him from sleeping.

The account, contained in an Aug. 7 report from the Newport, R.I., police department, adds to the picture that has emerged since Monday's baffling attack by an agitated and erratic naval contractor.

A day after the assault in the nation's capital, the motive was still a mystery. U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press investigators had found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motive.

They said Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee with a defence contractor, used a valid pass to get into the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard and then killed 12 people before he was gunned down by police in a shootout that lasted more than a half-hour.

Alexis had been undergoing mental-health treatment from Veterans Affairs since August but was not stripped of his security clearance, according to the law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.

He had been suffering a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said.

The assault is raising more questions about the adequacy of the background checks done on contract employees and others who are issued security clearances -- an issue that came up most recently with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, an IT employee with a government contractor.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered two security reviews Tuesday of how well the navy protects its bases and how accurately it screens its workers.

A senior defence official also said Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel intends to order a review of physical security at all department installations worldwide.

Also, the House and Senate's Veterans' affairs committees have asked the VA for details about any treatment provided to Alexis.

In the Newport, R.I., incident, Alexis told police he got into an argument with someone as he was getting on a flight from Virginia to Rhode Island, where he was working as a naval contractor, and he said that person sent three people to follow him and harass him.

He said he heard voices talking to him through a wall while at one hotel, so he changed hotels twice, but the voices followed him, according to the report. He said he feared they might harm him.

He also "stated the individuals are using a microwave machine sending vibrations to his body so he cannot fall asleep."

Later that day, Newport police alerted the Rhode Island naval station and sent a copy of the police report, Newport police Lt. William Fitzgerald said Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the station referred calls to the FBI.

During Monday's attack, Alexis was armed with a shotgun he bought in Virginia, the FBI said. Officials said he also took a handgun from a law officer.

Alexis had run-ins with the law over shootings in 2004 and 2010 in Texas and Seattle, and his bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and being absent from work without authorization prompted the navy to grant him an early -- but honourable -- discharge in 2011 after nearly four years as a full-time reservist, authorities said.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2013 A8

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