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Who Was Aaron Alexis? Records, Friends Offer Confusing Clues

NPR icon by Mark Memmott

Focusing only on public documents and on-the-record statements paints a complicated picture of the man police say walked into a building at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday and shot dead 12 people before being killed himself.

Thirty-four-year-old Aaron Alexis, as we reported Monday, "was a former full-time Navy reservist who had obtained a concealed-carry permit in Texas and was arrested three years ago for illegally discharging a weapon."

But he was also an aviation electrician's mate third class in the U.S. Navy Reserve who received an honorable discharge in January 2011.

The honorable discharge, however, came despite a "checkered four-year career ... a period marked by repeated run-ins with his military superiors and the law ... according to documents and Navy officials," says The Washington Post.

Still, Alexis was able to get that honorable discharge and "received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, awards of minor distinction," the Post adds.

Friends, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, say he "regularly meditated at a local Buddhist temple, was unfailingly courteous and never showed signs of the violence that is now his legacy. ... 'When he lived at my house, I never saw him get angry about anything,' [said a former landlord, Somsak Srisan]. 'My feeling is, if he was angry about anything, he didn't show that to me.' "

But he was also, as The Seattle Times writes, arrested in 2004 "for shooting out the tires of a construction worker's car in what Alexis later described as an anger-fueled 'blackout.' "

Then four years later, in DeKalb County, Ga., Alexis spent two nights in jail after being cited for disorderly conduct following a disturbance at a nightclub. As the citation (online here) shows, the arresting officer wrote that even though he told Alexis "several times" to stop swearing, the F-bombs and other profanity continued.

Another friend in Fort Worth, however, has fond memories of Alexis "sitting at one of the tables at Happy Bowl [a restaurant] trying to teach himself Thai."

Alexis' family, CNN notes, is in disbelief:

"What I do know is he wasn't that type of person," Anthony Little, who identified himself as Alexis' brother-in-law, told reporters outside his Brooklyn, New York, home. "I didn't really hear anything that would make me feel, as a newcomer to the family, that somebody should be watching him. ...

"You know, they didn't see it coming," said Little, who is married to Alexis' sister Naomi. "Their hearts are going out more to the victims and the people that got hurt because, you know, there's more lives lost and we don't need that right now. We really don't."

Note: We are aware there are many other, anonymously sourced, stories out today about Alexis. For now, as we said, we're focusing on what's in the public record and what's being said on-the-record. We'll add more as solid information comes in.

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