WASHINGTON, D.C. — Investigators have been focusing on the erratic behavior of a former Navy reservist who law enforcement officials say was grappling with paranoia and had reported hearing voices and being followed before he gunned down 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard this week.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that 34-year-old Aaron Alexis visited two hospitals in the weeks before the Monday morning rampage but denied that he was depressed or having thoughts of harming himself or others.
Alexis, who died in a police shootout after the rampage, complained of insomnia during an Aug. 23 emergency room visit to the VA Medical Center in Providence, R.I. He was given sleep medication and advised to follow up with a doctor. He made a similar visit five days later to the VA hospital in Washington, when he again complained of not being able to sleep because of his work schedule. His medication was refilled.
Alexis appeared “alert and oriented” during the visits and denied feeling depressed or anxious or wanting to do harm, the VA said in a statement presented to lawmakers Wednesday.
Two weeks before his ER visit, for instance, he complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep. Navy officials said the Newport police reported the incident to officers at the base security office, but nothing more was done about it because he did not appear to be a threat to himself or anyone else at the time.
Despite the apparent concerns over his mental health and past run-ins with the law, Alexis maintained his security clearance as he arrived in Washington in late August for a job as an information technology employee at a defense-related computer company.