At least 13 dead in Washington Navy Yard shooting

WASHINGTON — A mass shooting Monday morning at the Washington Navy Yard left at least 13 people, including a suspected gunman, dead, three others wounded and authorities desperately searching for a middle-age man in a military-style uniform.

District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier said police have identified the gunman as a civilian naval contractor, Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas, who was identified by fingerprints. He was a full-time Navy reservist until 2011, last serving with a logistics support squadron in Fort Worth. He reportedly used a friend’s identification to get into a building at the Washington Navy Yard and engaged in multiple shootouts with police before being fatally shot.

Police remained engaged in a manhunt for another man believed connected to Alexis.

Three victims, including a police officer, were brought to MedStar Washington Hospital Center. In a news conference, Dr. Janis Orlowski, the center’s chief medical officer, said the chances of their survival were good. She confirmed that all three victims were alert and speaking.

The police officer was shot in both of his legs. The other two victims are both female civilians. One suffered injuries to her shoulder, the other to both her head and hand. All three are confirmed to have been wounded inside the Navy Yard.

Orlowski said the hospital’s main concern was getting them “healed and back on their feet right now.”

The neighborhood near the naval facility remained sealed off, with residents locked out and nearby schools locked down six hours after the first reports of the violence came in at 8:20 a.m. The U.S. Senate was placed on a preventive lockdown early Monday afternoon, with votes postponed. The lockdown was later partly lifted. The Washington Nationals, whose stadium is just blocks from the crime scene, postponed their game Monday night against the Atlanta Braves.

“We have no indication of any motive at this time,” Lanier said at her second news conference of the day, adding that “there are very few questions we can answer at this point.”

The FBI was taking the reins of the investigation, the police chief said. Lanier credited D.C. police and the U.S. Park Police for preventing even more bloodshed in the morning rampage.

“I think the actions by the police officers, without question, helped to reduce the numbers of lives lost,” Lanier said, calling the actions of first responders “nothing short of heroic.”

Because the attack happened at a military facility in the capital, there were immediate fears that terrorism might be involved. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told reporters there was no evidence one way or another on terrorism, and he confirmed there was uncertainty about reports of additional gunmen.

“We don’t know for certain if there were other shooters,” the mayor said.

At an earlier news conference, Lanier said two men, one white and one black, between 40 and 50, were sought for questioning. The white male was said to have been dressed in a tan military-style uniform with a beret-like hat, the black male wearing an olive-colored military-style uniform.

“These are people that we believe are involved in some way and we are trying to locate,” Lanier said, citing “multiple pieces of information that we have least two other individuals seen with firearms.”

Later in the afternoon, police confirmed that the man in the tan outfit had contacted authorities and was cleared.

The area around the Navy Yard, not far from Capitol Hill, had been sealed off by layers of law enforcement personnel from local and federal agencies. Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer issued a statement midafternoon announcing that no one would be allowed in or out of Senate offices.

“In light of the uncertainty surrounding the shooting at the Navy Yard this morning and particularly the possibility of suspects remaining at large, we have decided to lock down the Senate complex,” according to the statement. “You may move about the building; however, for the next two hours you may not leave nor can anyone enter the building. This will be in effect until we deem the situation safe in the neighboring community. We do not have any information to suggest the Senate, its members or staff are in any danger, but out of an abundance of caution, we feel this is the best course of action to keep everyone safe.”

The shooting began inside the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building, a workplace for 3,000 people, according to a press release from Naval District Washington.

Contractor Sean Carroll described to McClatchy a chaotic scene on the second floor once the shooting started near a cafeteria atrium in the building.

“People didn’t realize what you were supposed to do,” he said. “Just heard the sounds. It was really loud. You could hear the gunshots. That’s a surreal thing. You’re not really thinking. But it wasn’t like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ You know with the world we live in. You know, ‘Oh my God. This is Fort Hood.'”

Fort Hood in Texas was the scene in 2009 of a shooting that left 12 dead.

Carroll said the shooting did not sound like an automatic weapon used by military personnel.

“I heard the shots,” he said. “I heard people scream. … It sounded like ‘pop, pop, pop.’ I could not characterize how staccato it was. It was not rapid fire. It was not automatic weapons. It was seven or eight shots in a couple of groups. This was over several minutes. The first shots seemed like a minute. Then when I ran I heard another couple of, not bursts, but ‘pop, pop, pop.””

Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist, told gathered reporters that she was near the cafeteria area when she heard some shots, followed by a break and then more shots. She and others fled the building. Someone pulled a fire alarm to alert colleagues of a problem.

Witnesses described one gunman dressed in dark clothing with what appeared to be a double-barrel shotgun, perched on a mezzanine and firing at a cafeteria atrium below. They said he appeared to be targeting who he was shooting at, rather than firing randomly.

The gunman was described by witnesses as carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, a double-barrel shotgun and a handgun.

An elite team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was dispatched to the scene Monday, part of the same ATF Special Response Team Canine Program that helped capture the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Employees at the Navy Yard complex, a former shipyard and ordnance plant turned naval administrative center, consist of civilians, service members and contract support personnel. They are responsible for engineering, building, purchasing and maintaining Navy ships, submarines and combat systems. The Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands.

This is not the first shooting at a military installation in recent years. In 2009 at Fort Hood, an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39 at the time, killed 12 and wounded 31 service members. Another, less well-known incident occurred on June 10, 2013, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where a soldier shot and wounded a fellow service member.

As word spread of a shooting at the Navy Yard, the end of the D.C. morning rush hour began to look like the crush of peak hour. At least two bridges into the nation’s capital were closed to traffic and commuters were forced to inch along side roads to get in or turn back and work from home.

Subway service was briefly interrupted, but no additional police presence was apparent. That argued in favor of a localized incident that didn’t spark fears of a wider terror plot. Security was also stepped up around the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Senate and House office buildings.

For tourists visiting the nation’s capital, a stepped-up police presence was noticeable in front of the Washington Monument and other attractions.

With a lockdown in the area around the Navy Yard lasting well into the afternoon, there were concerns about safety at the Washington Nationals scheduled evening game. Star outfielder Bryce Harper took to Twitter to voice concern about the deadly shootings.

“Thoughts & prayers go out to the victims and responders at the Navy Yard! It is absolute sickening that people do this!” Harper tweeted.

McClatchy Washington Bureau reporters David Lightman, Greg Gordon, James Rosen, Mary Faddoul, Kendall Helblig, Tish Wells, William Douglas and Maria Recio contributed to this article.