Navy Gunman Flipped Out at Us at Airport: Family
More details emerge about Aaron Alexis' mental issues
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2013 7:59 AM CDT
This undated photo provided by Kristi Suthamtewakul shows Aaron Alexis.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of Kristi Suthamtewakul)

(Newser) – When Aaron Alexis called Rhode Island police to complain that three people were "sending vibrations into his body," he said he suspected his tormentors had been dispatched by someone he argued with at an airport. Now, a family tells Fox News that they were the ones Alexis quarreled with. They say Alexis confronted them over the loud laughter of their 75-year-old wheelchair-bound "matriarch" while at the Norfolk, Va., airport on Aug. 4. We "were just talking and Aaron Alexis walked over ... and said, 'Who is that lady laughing at? Is she laughing at me?" the woman's niece says. "I said, 'No, no, she doesn't even know you."

Alexis stood by the family silently for another minute and then walked away—only to return minutes later. This time he started shouting obscenities and motioning to his side as though he had a weapon. Airport security came and told him to back off. "When I first saw his face" in news reports about the Navy shooting "it blew me away completely," the niece says. "We could've been killed." In other developments:

  • Alexis' vibrations report alarmed Rhode Island police enough to contact Navy police. But Navy police didn't act on the report or alert their superiors, the New York Times reports. "He's just hearing voices," a department spokesman said. "We can't arrest someone for that."
  • Two weeks after the vibrations incident, Alexis visited a VA hospital emergency room. But he was only seeking help for insomnia, not other mental health issues, the Washington Post reports. "Mr. Alexis was alert and oriented," a VA spokesman says. When asked if he was depressed, anxious, or had "thoughts about harming himself or others," he said no.
  • Chuck Hagel yesterday promised a full review of security clearance procedures. "Obviously, if you go back in hindsight and look at this, there were some red flags," the Defense Secretary said in his first remarks since the shooting, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Should we have picked them up? Why didn't we?"