Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The L.A. Times has two articles that leave little doubt that Aaron Alexis had suffered a psychotic break and was delusional when he shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
Six weeks ago, Aaron Alexis told people someone had threatened him at an airport in Virginia. A few days later, in Rhode Island, he heard voices. He thought people were speaking to him through “the walls, floor and ceiling” of the Navy base there, where he was working.
In his hotel room, the voices used “some sort of microwave machine” to send vibrations through the ceiling and into his body, a police report shows him saying. He could not sleep.
Alexis frequently moved as part of his contract work at military installations from New England to North Carolina; he arrived in Washington on Aug. 25. He switched hotels several times until Sept. 7, when he finally settled into the Residence Inn — a mile from his new workplace at the historic Washington Navy Yard on the capital’s waterfront.
On Saturday he visited a gun shop in the Virginia suburbs. He practiced firing a rifle, then purchased a Remington 870 shotgun and 24 shells. The short-barrel weapon, known popularly as a “riot gun,” is commonly used by police and the military.
In the second article, Richard A. Serrano informs us about two messages that Mr. Alexis carved into the wooden stock of his shotgun:
The shooter who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday carved two cryptic messages into the wooden stock of his shotgun – “(Better Off This Way)” and “(My ELF)” — according to a federal law enforcement official.
The messages appear to be the first clue into Aaron Alexis’ possible motive for attacking the base at the start of the work week after spending weeks drifting up and down the East Coast and complaining of hearing voices and believing he was being stalked by three unknown officials.
The messages were carved by either a knife or some other instrument into the wooden stock of the Remington 870 Express shotgun that Alexis bought two days before the shooting, the official said. “The first one (Better Off This Way) seems to have him saying he wanted to kill fellow workers or maybe expected to die himself,” the official said.
The second one, (My ELF), appeared to be a reference to “extremely low frequency,” and could refer to his belief that someone was penetrating his brain with microwave messages, which he had described to police in Newport, R.I., six weeks ago.
In the fall of 2003, Crane and I received an odd telephone call from a student we knew at Seattle University. The call seemed odd because he claimed loud voices in the walls of his apartment had prevented him from sleeping for several days. We decided to pay him a visit.
He admitted us to his apartment after we convinced him that we were not two impostors attempting to trick him into opening the door.
We spent about an hour checking his apartment and the rest of the building, which contained four apartments above an underground parking lot. We did not hear any voices or see anything out of order.
Because he remained uncharacteristically anxious and fearful, we invited him to come and stay with us for a few days. Fortunately, he accepted our invitation.
This incident kicked-off a bizarre month in which Crane and I took him to see mental health professionals and alternated sleeping during the night so that one of us would always be awake. The diagnosis was always the same: Rapid Repeating Bipolar Disorder with Paranoid Delusions. He disagreed with the diagnoses because the delusions were so real to him that he could not distinguish them from ordinary reality and the anti-psychotic medication dulled his senses.
We finally persuaded him to voluntarily enter a secure mental health treatment hospital after a couple of property destruction incidents in our home and a threat to kill us in our sleep.
There is no known cure for this condition, but the delusions can be smoothed out and managed with appropriate anti-psychotic medication. Fortunately for our friend, his parents can afford to pay for his health care and medication.
Had his financial circumstances been otherwise, he would be homeless, in jail or dead.
Mr. Alexis’s story is worse than any horror movie could be because it is real and the tragic result was so preventable.
Take care of your brothers and sisters when they are sick, because if you don’t, no one else will.