Nightly News   |  September 18, 2013

Navy Yard shooter sought mental health treatment, officials say

Aaron Alexis, the man police say shot and killed 12 people in a Washington Navy Yard, reportedly called police to complain about people following him and that he was hearing voices. He sought mental health treatment from a nearby VA hospital, officials said. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> the mass shooting at the washington navy yard reportedly told police he was hearing voices and that someone was using microwave technology to infiltrate his body. investigators say the portrait emerging tonight of this former navy reservist turned private contractor points increasingly to mental illness , at the same time, the portraits emerge of the people who died in the gunfire, simply because they were inside the complex of navy buildings. we begin tonight with our justice correspondent, pete williams , good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian, the man accused of the shootings, aaron alexis , came to washington three weeks ago after seeking treatment at a v.a. hospital, after complaining about hearing voices and worrying about his safety. just last month, investigators say, aaron alexis checked into this hospital in newport, rhode island , while working as a contractor. he called police to say that people were following him, he was hearing voices and they were using microwave elements to stop him from sleeping. he worried about the voices that could harm him. later, he looked for mental health treatment at a v.a. hospital. in ft. worth, he worried about being a victim of racism and being short changed by the government.

>> oh, my gosh, i'm so tired of dealing with our american government , because they're giving me the runaround, and they're shorting me my benefits.

>> reporter: as for the shootings, alexis drove onto the navy yard monday, walking into the building 197, carrying a bag with a shotgun he bought over the weekend in a gun shop in virginia, after using a shooting range that did operate.

>> mr. alexis had legitimate access to the navy yard as a result of his work as a contractor, and used a valid pass to gain entry into the building.

>> reporter: investigators say he went into the fourth floor, ducking into the men's room, and came out with the shotgun, stopping to reload. he also grabbed a handgun from the police officer he wounded and kept on firing until he was shot and killed a half hour later. the navy said he was granted a low-level secret clearance in 2008 , good for ten years. it is not clear if the government didn't know or didn't care that four years earlier he was arrested in seattle for shooting the tires of a car that was parked near his house. the police report said he did it then after a blackout fuelled by anger. he was arrested again in 2008 , and once more in texas in 2010 , but was never convicted of anything. he was never illegally barred from buying guns. the officials say it would have been illegal to report he was seeking psychiatric treatment .

>> tonight, the secretary of the navy has ordered another investigation of how clearances are granted and reviewed and how installations are protected. brian?

>> pete williams on this story all day from our d.c.