At least 12 people were killed in a shooting Monday morning at a building at the Washington Navy Yard, DC police said. Several others were injured. Shots were first reported around 8:20 a.m. at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters, where some 3,000 people work.
DC police chief Cathy Lanier said in a press conference that one suspected shooter was dead, but “we have potentially two other shooters that we have not located at this point,” The Washington Post reported.
Multiple US news sites and law enforcement officials identified the slain shooter as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas, who was recently hired as a civilian employee at the Navy facility.
Police were still searching for two men, Lanier said. They were described by witnesses as a white male, wearing a khaki-tan military uniform, beret, and wielding a handgun; and a black male, around 50 years old, wearing a khaki military uniform and possibly carrying an assault rifle.
DC police later said the khaki-clad white male had been identified and “was not a suspect or person of interest.”
US President Barack Obama called the incident a tragedy and said the nation was “confronting yet another mass shooting, and it happened again on a military installation.
“I’ve made it clear to my team that we want the investigation to be seamless, so that local and federal authorities are working together,” the president said, adding that he would make sure that “whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible.”
One of the victims was a DC police officer, who is in stable condition, Lanier added.
There has been confusion from authorities as to whether the shooting was the work of a lone gunman, or was carried out by several individuals. Earlier in the day, police told The Washington Post they believed there were three shooters, a report that was not confirmed at the time by the Navy.
Police later said that there was only one confirmed shooter, but they were “looking into the possibility of a second shooter at the Navy Yard,” and that “the Pentagon and Navy are confirming up to three.” CNN reported shortly after that, according to the Navy, two shooters “are down.”
Rick Mason, a program management analyst who is a civilian with the US Navy, said a gunman was shooting from a 4th-floor overlook in the hallway outside his office. He said the gunman was aiming down at people in the building’s cafeteria on the first floor. Mason said he could hear the shots, but could not see a gunman.
Shortly after the gunfire, Mason said he overhead speakers telling workers to seek shelter and later to head for the gates of the complex.
Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria and heard shots. They sounded like “pop, pop, pop,” she said. After a few seconds, there were more shots, she claimed.
“Everybody just panicked at first,” continued Ward. “It was just people running, running, running.” Ward said security officers started directing people out of the building with guns drawn.
Police and federal agents from multiple law enforcement agencies converged on the scene. Ambulances were parked outside, streets in the area were closed, and flights at Reagan National Airport were temporarily halted. Heightened security was reported at the Pentagon, the White House, and other government sites.
The Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five system commands and accounts for one-quarter of the Navy’s entire budget. It builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and their combat systems.
During the incident, 4-star admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, was evacuated to the Pentagon shortly after the first shots were reported, The Washington Post reported.
Out of “an abundance of caution,” law enforcement officials called for a full lock-down at the US Senate, “in effect until we deem the situation safe in the neighboring community.”