Naval Yard gunman said to have had mental illness for a decade

This undated photo provided by Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul shows Aaron Alexis in Fort Worth, Texas.
This undated photo provided by Kristi Kinard Suthamtewakul shows Aaron Alexis in Fort Worth, Texas.

WASHINGTON — The former Navy reservist who killed 12 people in a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday had exhibited signs of mental illness dating back more than a decade, including a recent episode in which he complained about hearing voices and of people sending “vibrations to his body” to prevent him from sleeping, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation, said the gunman, Aaron Alexis, had been exhibiting symptoms of mental illness since at least his early 20s, before he joined the Naval reserve and then went on to be a military contractor. The official said Alexis has been described by people who knew him as paranoid and delusional.

“He had complained of hearing voices and ringing of the ears,” the law enforcement official said about Alexis, although it is not clear whether Alexis had sought medical treatment.

Alexis, according to a report filed by an officer with the Newport Police Department in Rhode Island, was suffering from hallucinations so serious that he had called the police last month, a police official said.

On Monday, Alexis entered the Navy Yard, a secure military facility near the Capitol, killing at least 12 people before he was fatally shot by the authorities. Police say Alexis, 34, acted alone. On Tuesday a full list of victims’ names was released.

Navy officials said that although he had exhibited a “pattern of misbehavior,” which included insubordination and unauthorized absences, Alexis was given an honorable discharge from the military in January 2011 after he had applied for an early discharge under the Navy’s early enlisted transition program.

Those issues had led the Navy to consider forcing Alexis out of the service with a less than honorable discharge, a law enforcement official said Tuesday

Investigators searching for a motive for the rampage that shut down a portion of Washington on Monday said people had begun noticing Alexis’ potential mental health problems around the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Alexis’ father has told the authorities that his son had been among the first responders at the World Trade Center and that he believed that Alexis suffered from post-traumatic stress and had difficulty controlling his anger.

Alexis had been arrested at least three times during the past decade by civilian authorities, twice for weapons violations.