Nightly News   |  September 18, 2013

Surveillance video reveals new details about Navy Yard shooting

Officials say they have no idea why Aaron Alexis selected Building 197, and have no specific target of his anger. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> we turn from tonight's news on foreign affairs to the shooting rampage at the washington navy yard and the acknowledgment today by the u.s. secretary of defense there were many red flags that were missed about the past behavior of this gunman, aaron alexis as the gunman's mother today broke her silence. our justice correspondent pete williams is with us from the d.c. newsroom with the latest on the investigation. good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. more signs tonight the of the troubled mind of aaron alexis . investigators say he scratched two phrases in the shotgun he was carrying. quote, better off this way, and my elf weapon. an abbreviation they cannot explain. add the secretary of defense to the list of those wondering how a contractor like aaron alexis could get and keep a security clearance allowing entry to the navy yard after three run-ins with police and recent struggles with psychiatric problems.

>> there were red flags , of course there were. should we have picked them up, why didn't we, how could we? all those questions need to be answered.

>> reporter: after examining surveillance video and interviewing survivor uhs officials give this revised account of what happened inside. alexis enters building 197 with a shotgun in a bag and went directly to the 4th floor, ducked into a men's room and came out firing. virtually all of those hit were hit with shotgun blasts. he went back to the entrance, shot a security guard , took his handgun, raced upstairs and continued shooting until killed by police. investigators say they have no idea why alexis selected that building. they have identified no specific target of his anger. alexis 's mother declining to appear on camera, says she has no answers either.

>> i don't know why he did what he did. i will never be able to ask him why. aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone. for that i am glad.

>> reporter: as the government looks at how to factor mental health issues into bkd investigations there was a note of caution.

>> men and women should have the opportunity to overcome their mental disorders or their mental challenges or their clinical health challenges. and shouldn't be stigmatized.

>> reporter: nbc news got an exclusive look inside the washington trauma center where survivors were brought monday. nbc's peter alexander talked to doctors who treated the wounded.

>> two patients who are here are in good condition, recovering well. we ex expect them to make excellent recoveries.

>> reporter: we know alexis told the newport police last month he was hearing voices . now the v.a. says when he later sought treatment twice he said only that he was having trouble sleeping . the newport police told local nay vi authorities what happened but the navy said that was never reported any further up the chain of command , brian.

>> pete williams in the d.c. newsroom on the case tonight.