MPD Navy Yard After Action Report
On the morning of Monday, September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard, where he served as an independent contractor, and carried out the most deadly workplace mass shooting in the Nation’s Capital in recent memory.
Over the course of 69 minutes, Alexis terrorized thousands of employees of Naval Sea Systems Command, firing indiscriminately from a shotgun he had legally purchased two days earlier and a handgun he had taken from a security guard after mortally wounding the guard. He would also get into multiple shooting engagements with responding law enforcement officers, seriously injuring a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer. In his final confrontation with police, Alexis ambushed and fired upon another MPD officer. Fortunately, the officer was saved by his protective vest and was able to return fire, killing Alexis and ending his rampage. When it was over, Alexis had shot and killed twelve people and injured several others.
In the aftermath of the incident, the members of MPD first and foremost want to remember and honor the twelve people who lost their lives. Twelve people went to work that Monday, but did not return home to their loved ones. It is truly a senseless tragedy beyond comprehension, and there are no words adequate enough to express our condolences. Our thoughts remain with the victims’ families and friends.
Over the years, the members of MPD, along with other area law enforcement agencies and emergency responders, have trained extensively for the possibility of an “active shooter” incident. The Department did so with the hope of never having to respond to such a tragedy, but in the wake of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Fort Hood, and Sandy Hook, among other similar tragedies, MPD recognized the importance and necessity of those preparations. As the primary law enforcement agency for the Nation’s Capital, the members of MPD are acutely aware of the many potential targets that exist within the city and the need to remain prepared and vigilant.
On September 16, 2013, hundreds of police, fire, and emergency medical personnel from several different agencies responded to the Navy Yard after receiving news of the shooting. Officers relied upon their training, experience, and instincts to run into an unfamiliar and massive building, towards the gunshots and certain danger, in order to stop the gunman from taking more lives.
MPD would like to thank all of the first responders and especially commend the brave and heroic actions of the law enforcement officers who first entered the building. The arrival and swift entry of police officers was critical. While he exchanged gunfire with responding law enforcement officers on multiple occasions, Alexis did not fatally wound any additional victims over the course of the last 47 minutes he was moving throughout the building.
In the wake of the incident, it is the Department’s responsibility to objectively review and assess the police response to the shooting. An internal review team was assembled and tasked with conducting a comprehensive and detailed assessment.
In composing the report, the team attempted to delicately balance the need to provide extensive details with discretion and sensitivity for the victims, survivors, and witnesses. The team’s objective was to provide other law enforcement agencies and emergency responders with MPD’s thoughts and self-assessment as to the strengths and weaknesses of the police and emergency response; from the first 911 call through the subsequent investigation. The team also considered that there may be different perceptions or interpretations of the actions as they unfolded that day, depending on the perspective of those involved in the response. The team went to great lengths to critically analyze all the diverse observations and their potential impacts. In the end, the views and statements expressed within this report are from the perspective of the Metropolitan Police Department and its members.
The following report provides a narrative of the multi-agency response and culminates in a summary of MPD’s overall observations and recommendations. The Department hopes it may provide other agencies with insight into the police response that day and help us all to be better prepared in the event of a future incident.
Cathy L. Lanier
Chief of Police