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He Was a Buddhist? 5 Things You Should Know About Aaron Alexis, the Man Who Killed 12 at the D.C. Navy Yard

Here’s what we know already about the man behind the latest mass shooting.
 
 
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Washington, D.C. is still reeling from the worst attack on a military base since the Fort Hood shootings in 2009, but attention is now turning to the perpetrator of the attack. 12 people were killed and dozens were injured yesterday by 34-year-old Aaron Alexis.

Alexis, who opened fire from a building overlooking the cafeteria at the Navy Yard in D.C., was killed after engaging in a firefight with police. It was unclear whether he killed himself or was shot by police, though.

Law enforcement authorities are still investigating why Alexis would have turned his guns on innocent people. Here’s what we know already about the man behind the latest mass shooting.

1. Prior Arrests

Aaron Alexis was no stranger to law enforcement. He had been arrested twice before.

In 2004, Alexis was booked by Seattle police on charges of “malicious mischief.” The reason? He shot out the tires of a car owned by construction workers. According to the Seattle Police, Alexis had been staring at construction workers at a site near where he was staying. Angry at the parking situation near his home, Alexis shot out the tires of a Honda. Alexis told law enforcement authorities that it was an anger-fueled “blackout” and that he couldn’t remember firing his gun until an hour after he did so.

And in 2010, Alexis was arrested in Texas for discharging his gun. He told police he did so accidentally; no charges were filed. But the gun incident came after he confronted an upstairs neighbor in a parking lot about making too much noise.

2. Alexis Was a Contractor

The 34-year-old worked for a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard called The Experts, an information technology and telecommunications company. The business is contracted by the Navy to work on its Intranet network (a term meaning a collection of private computer networks within one organization). He was reportedly upset about a payment dispute with his employer.

His ID badge as a contractor allowed him access to the Navy Yard base.

3. Alexis Was a Vet

Alexis’ connections to the Navy don’t stop at his contracting. Prior to being hired by The Experts, Alexis served in the naval forces. He enlisted in 2007 in New York, and served four years.

He was discharged from the Navy a year after the shooting incident in Texas in 2010. The Navy said the discharge came about because of a “pattern of misbehavior.”

4. Mental Issues

Alexis suffered from anger management problems associated with PTSD, his father told Seattle police in 2004. Alexis had also told police that he was in New York on 9/11 and participated in the rescue effort, and that the events disturbed him.

“He said he was hearing voices, he was detached from reality at certain points. He had sought treatment a number of times at a number of places and he was also frustrated there. He claimed he wasn't getting his full VA benefits,” former FBI assistant director and CBS correspondent John Miller reports.

5. Buddhism

Alexis was a practicing Buddhist. He was deeply into Thai and Buddhist culture, and learned Thai while working at a Thai restaurant.

He worshipped at Buddhist temple in Fort Worth, Texas. Monks there told the Los Angeles Times they were shocked that he was behind the D.C. killings.

“He was a very devoted Buddhist,” said the wife of someone who knew Alexis. “Buddhism teaches forgiveness, not grudges. That's why we're so shocked.”

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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