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Navy Yard Shooting


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The Navy Yard shooting took place in Washington when a gunman called Aaron Alexis shot at 12 people, killing them at the naval sea systems command (NAVSEA). The unfortunate event took place in September 16, 2013. The man was later killed after police searched through the building he was hiding. The Navy Yard shooting exposed deep security lapses in regard to logistics, which can be prevented through the establishment of a central command system as well as an investment in state of the art equipment.

Case Analysis

The Navy Yard shooting sparked an assortment of discussions regarding the safety of military facilities. Happening more than 10 years after the 9/11, the shooting raised pertinent questions in regard to how military installations are secure from criminals. Defense secretary Hagel admitted to the existence of weak points, and demanded for the appraisal of security procedures around sensitive military bases (Shear & Schmidt, 2013). Usually when such events happen, speculations are often rife to the effect that the shooters suffer from mental challenges. Indeed, this was the case, when media reports suggested that the assailant had prior to the incident claimed to have been, ‘hearing voices within his head’ (Myers, 2015). Whatever the case, it becomes manifest that there existed a security failure, since there is no law that blocks mentally ill people from going through security searches.

However, it would be unfair to accuse the security apparatus for having failed to stop a threat that was imminent. In essence, the assailant must have been much smarter to have bypassed all the security checks that had been mounted. The manner in which a presumed mentally disturbed criminal disguised himself and went into a military headquarter remains a mystery. Apparently, security officers had received prior intelligence in regard to the threat and had initially suspected a white male who had been seen carrying a handgun (Hermann & Williams, 2014). The intelligence was much precise to the effect that there also existed a black man who was in possession of a long gun. Detailed investigations revealed that the white male was not the suspect, although no much investigation was carried out on the black male, who later became Alexis, the main suspect. Thus, it seems as if the issue of mental illness was being driven to justify the attack, although the allegation can be negated by the fact that the suspect exhibited great ingenuity while on his assignment. For instance, investigations proved that Alexis tricked police to head to the second floor of the NAVSEA building, when he was actually hiding on the first floor.

The safety of the public in the midst of criminals is under question, specifically in consideration of the weaknesses of the law. There is a possibility that criminals can disguise themselves as suffering from mental illness so as to propagate vice. The fact that Alexis had initially complained of insomnia and was given an antidepressant could provide evidence to this. Usually, the law does not allow for the incarceration of mentally ill individuals, and the rise in the number of shooting associated with such invalids is worrying (Shear & Schmidt, 2013). Besides, there seems to lack information sharing among departments, and this is the reason as to why culprits can be allowed to access guns. Even after Alexis had visited a hospital where he complained of suffering from a mental challenge, he was still allowed to purchase a handgun at the sharpshooter’s small arms range found in Virginia (Myers, 2015). Thus, if there existed exchange of information through a central database, Alexis could not have been cleared to buy a gun which was used in the shooting. Consequently, the safety of the public as well as of security installations is in problems if federal and state background checks are not rigorous. Apparently, the background checks approved Alexis to buy the gun.

Military facilities are under the threat of attack from members within their ranks if no precaution is made. Alexis had worked in the navy up to 2011 and was thus considered as an insider (Plaza, 2015). According to the foreign policy magazine, the security procedures at major military installations are vulnerable to external influence. For instance, soldiers, employees, as well as civilians can enter into such facilities without any rigorous checks like passing through metal detectors and being patted down to ensure that they are not carrying any guns. For Alexis, having worked in the navy allowed him to access classified security clearance, and this permitted him to enter into the building without much scrutiny (Irwin, 2016). Moreover, there is indication that the presence of the so called, ‘gun-free zones’ within bases of military has caused them to become vulnerable to external attacks. Alexis may have taken advantage of the regulation that hinders soldiers from carrying guns within the headquarters to shoot recklessly, considering that he knew that there would be no retaliation. The fact that NAVSEA headquarters is closer to Capitol Hill indicates the danger that criminals such as Alexis can be to public interests. In every way, the event attracted greater debate in regard to pertinent issues regarding the existence of strict gun control measures.

Based on the fact that Alexis had been discharged of his duties as a navy officer, there is indication that he may have been seeking to revenge against an issue he considered as an unfair dismissal (Hermann & Williams, 2014). Although the reason for dismissal was termed as, ‘exhibiting a pattern of misbehavior’, navy officials refused to divulge any additional information in regard to what actually made him to be sacked. Even then, Alexis had exhibited unruly behaviors before the shooting, and was supposed to be serving a jail sentence instead of being left scot free. In one of the instance, the culprit had discharged a firearm when he conflicted with a neighbor inside a parking lot (Irwin, 2016). Although he was arrested, information about his subsequent release was scarce. By exposing great irresponsibility in handling of guns, it was expected that he should have been barred from accessing the weapon anywhere. It is also worth noting that in 2004, Alexis had shot at the tires of an individual’s car, and police described the incidence as having been motivated by the fury of the assailant. Thus, information from the public sphere indicated that Alexis was a dangerous man whose emotions could drive him to discharge his gun. It beats logic that police departments found it fit to clear him to carry the weapon.

Some analysts have considered that Alexis was not a lone and that there existed two other men who were accomplices, and who made good their escape. Surveillance videos showed two armed men escaping the scene in military gear (Leonard & Trusty, 2015). Since the shooting, there has never existed conclusive investigations to apprehend the two men, and this creates greater threat to the public. Considering evidence adduced from the videos, it becomes manifest that security apparatus has failed and that the criminals have the freedom to plan other much bigger attacks, possibility to avenge the death of Alexis. Besides, the criminals who are at loose can still partner with terrorists to plan dangerous attacks. Upon the attack, security officials were expected to immediately secure the city in order to stop the two men from escaping.

Based on the fact that NAVSEA headquarters is close to the Whitehouse, security agents have an uphill task to ensure that key installations are secured. During the same time, there was a security scare at the white house when an unknown man threw a firecracker over its fence, prompting secret service agents to move with speed and arrest the perpetrator (Shear & Schmidt, 2013). Thus, there is evidence to the effect that the Navy Yard shooting could have been related to the white house incidence, and that Alexis was simply trying to test the readiness of security agents in apprehending threats.

Immediately the Navy Yard shooting took place, it was amazing to experience how much the NAVSEA was apparently ‘protected’. Within a short time, more than 3,000 service members alongside military helicopters surrounded the place as they tried to rush victims to hospitals. The Navy Yard is considered as exceedingly protected with a high wall surrounding it. However, the situation is quite different at the entrance, considering that any individual who can disguise himself to be an official can easily access the building without even having his vehicle being inspected. Therefore, if Alexis could have managed to sneak a bomb into the parking lot, then the destruction could have been enormous. Questions abound to the manner in which Alexis was able to have official access into NAVSEA despite having been dismissed in 2011.

Many security experts consider that communication challenges between officers who had been tasked with getting hold of Alexis was poor and that is why it was difficult to search for him. As the shooting was taking place; live videos were streaming, yet the officers could not make a connection and apprehend the assailant before the twelve victims succumbed to their injuries (Plaza, 2015). Evidence that emerged after the shooting indicated that a private security guard had hidden himself insider a room in which more than 160 cameras showed the movement of Alexis within the building (Hermann & Williams, 2014). To make matters worse, the guard in hiding could not even communicate with the Navy SEALs commanders outside. Based on the fact that there were so many officers outside the headquarters who were talking to each other, there existed confusion, making it difficult to create a central command that would have facilitated rescue operations and even apprehend the criminal. Considering that there existed no single command center, it was quite difficult for those who were inside the building searching for Alexis to respond to any advice. In fact, the base commander was never seen anywhere close to the scene, and this made it difficult to know who was the actual decision maker in the whole process.

Despite the blame game that has existed in regard to how the operation was executed, an assortment of scholars has become skeptical about the probability that lives could have been saved in the incident. For instance, Myers claims that 10 of the victims had been killed within six minutes. This attracts critical questions in regard to how a criminal could have become much smarter than active Navy officials who had received much training in combat. Apparently, if an active shooter could have moved with speed to apprehend Alexis, he could have only managed to prevent the wounding of a police officer.

Moving forward, queries abound in regard to how future attacks can be apprehended in lieu of the Navy yard shooting. Although the officers who finally killed Alexis were praised for entering the building and ending the operation within an hour, there is need for officers to coordinate and have clear communication from the command level. Apparently, the video images which showed two men escaping in full military gear illustrated the manner in which criminals can disguise themselves and even make it appear as though friendly fire existed (Myers, 2015). Thus, it would be appropriate for officers to have coded language that would diminish the level at which criminals can disguise themselves in their evil motives.

The Navy yard shooting exposes critical questions regarding any lessons that had been learned from the 9/11 attacks. Apparently, lack of logistical support in terms of responders talking to each through their radios in the Navy yard shooting bears semblance to the failure of the 9/11 rescue mission. Indeed, the NAVSEA shooting should become a wakeup call to ensure that the complicated defense structure is simplified to ensure that there exists only one officer who is in charge of communicating with the active shooters on the ground. Based on the case of Osama killing, one can derive greater lessons whereby only 6 Navy SEALs were able to accurately perform an otherwise complicated exercise. Thus, the need to have a small team of highly trained professionals can help to apprehend a lone criminal.

From the experience of the Navy yard shooting, it becomes foolhardy for a team of 3,000 officers to believe that they can join force to apprehend a single individual. Thus, technology could have helped to overcome the situation, specifically for the officers who were inside the building, who could have depended on live feeds. Besides, there is a need to initiate greater training so that officers can learn the art of active shooting. Besides, the dependence on the AR-15 weapons which are long and cannot be used in narrow hallways is a matter that requires much investigation (Myers, 2015). Thus, a need to use M4 rifles which are shorter would allow the active shooters the flexibility and speed to tackle smart criminals such as Alexis, and thus ensure the security and safety of public facilities. Communication is also quite vital, specifically in consideration of the fact that one of the active shooters complained that the audible radio transmissions gave him away to the assailant, who was able to know where he was hiding. Consequently, officers will need to use earpieces to ensure that their communication with their commanders is secret during sensitive combat sessions.


The safety of public installations is a question worth considering after the naval yard shooting. Several lessons such as the establishment of a flexible unit to combat crime can be learned from the case. Besides, training and investment in new equipment would guarantee the safety of people and strategic public and security facilities.


Hermann, P., & Williams, C. (2014, July 11). Confusion marred police response to Navy Yard shooting, report finds. Retrieved from Washington Post:

Irwin, R. (2016). Mass murder in America. New York:

Leonard, E. C., & Trusty, K. A. (2015). Supervision: Concepts and practices of management. New York: Cengage Learning.

Myers, L. (2015). Shooting at the Navy Yard: One survivor’s memoir. New York: Lulu Publishing Services.

Plaza, V. (2015). American mass murderers. New York: Lulu Com.

Shear, M. D., & Schmidt, M. S. (2013, September 16). Gunman and 12 victims killed in shooting at D.C. Navy Yard. Retrieved from New York Times:

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