Aaron Alexis, a former US Naval reservist, entered the Navy Yard building in Washington at approximately 08:15 Monday morning. He killed 12 people and wounded three more. More than forty-five minutes later, he was killed during an exchange of fire with police officers. However, the BBC has revealed that a police tactical unit was prevented from intervening sooner. It is unclear, so far, why the team was ordered to stand down.
According to the BBC report, a Capitol Police tactical response team was close by when the initial report of an active shooter situation went out at around 08:20. The unit arrived at the scene within a few minutes but were ordered to stand down, according to several Capitol Police sources.
The tactical team, which is specifically tasked with responding to such incidents, would have been able to enter the building and neutralize the gunman within minutes. In response to the BBC inquiry, a Capitol Police source said “I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that some lives may have been saved if we were allowed to intervene.” The incident is now being investigated by high-ranking officers.
The reason behind the stand down order is not clear, although it may have been a question of jurisdiction. The Metropolitan Police Department is the primary law enforcement agency in Washington, whilst the Capitol Police are responsible for the complex of federal government buildings.
Alexis, 34, was discharged from the Navy Reserve in 2011 and had begun work as a civilian contractor at the Navy Yard. He is alleged to have had a known history of anger issues and at least one previous firearms-related charge.
Graham J Noble