WASHINGTON — At least 12 people died Monday during a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, officials said. One gunman died in the shooting, and police are seeking another possible shooter.
The Navy Yard was placed on lockdown after shots were fired inside a building on the base, the U.S. Navy said. A Metro police officer and naval base officer were among those injured in the shooting, according to the D.C. Metro Police.
The gunman was identified by the Associated Press and other news organizations as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old civilian contractor for the Navy.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said the gunman was shot during an exchange with the Metro Police officer.
“As far as we know, it’s an isolated incident,” Gray said. “We have no known motive at this stage.”
[Full coverage: Washington Navy Yard shooting]
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said authorities were seeking a potential second suspect, described as a black male, approximately 40 to 50 years old, 5 foot 10, 180 pounds, medium complexion with gray sideburns, wearing an olive military-style uniform and carrying “a long gun.”
Before a scheduled economic speech at the White House, President Barack Obama deplored “yet another mass shooting” — this one targeting military and civilian personnel.
“These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job, protecting all of us,” Obama said. “They’re patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad. But today they faced the unimaginable: violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home.”
“We will do everything in our power to make sure that whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible,” the president added. “I want the investigation to be seamless.”
Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer at Washington Hospital Center, said one Metropolitan Police officer and two civilians are being treated there. All three are in critical condition, Orlowski said, but are alert, speaking and have a good chance of survival.
One was shot in the legs, another in the shoulder and another in the head and hand.
Orlowski said Washington Hospital Center is prepared to handle eight to 10 more victims, but did not know how many victims would be transported to the hospital. She said she had been told to expect more.
The Navy said shots were fired at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building on the base at 8:20 a.m., and a “shelter in place” order was issued for Navy Yard personnel.
Rick Mason, a program management specialist, told Yahoo News he was on the fourth floor when he saw someone with a shotgun aiming down into the atrium. The gunman, Mason said, was targeting people who walked into the cafeteria.
Other employees described a chaotic scene.
“We heard two shots and started wondering if that was the sound of someone dropping something or if they were really shots,” Omar Grant, a civilian employee at the Navy Yard who was on the first floor of the atrium, said. “We heard three more shots, and that’s when people started running out of the building and getting the hell out of there.”
Grant then led a blind colleague to safety.
Approximately 3,000 people work in the building, the Navy said, though it’s unclear how many people were inside at the time of the shooting.
The U.S. Senate complex was locked down “in light of the uncertainty surrounding the shooting at the Navy Yard this morning and particularly the possibility of suspects remaining at large,” the Senate said in an alert to staffers. “You may move about the building; however, for the next two hours you may not leave nor can anyone enter the building.”
A White House official said the president had been briefed several times throughout the morning about the unfolding situation at the Navy Yard by assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism Lisa Monaco and deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromanaco.
A heavy SWAT and police presence could be seen around the Navy Yard. Outside the base, employees sat huddled, crying and holding each other. At least one of the victims was airlifted from the scene, as helicopters circled overhead.
A temporary ground stop was ordered at Reagan National Airport, and schools in the area were placed on temporary lockdown.
The 41-acre Navy Yard, located five blocks from Nationals Stadium and a mile and a half from the Capitol, is home to the chief of naval operations and headquarters for the Naval Historical Center and numerous naval commands.
The Washington Nationals postponed Monday’s home game against the Atlanta Braves in the wake of the tragedy.
According to the Navy’s website, Naval Sea Systems “engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and their combat systems.” Approximately 60,000 people work there.
— With Olivier Knox reporting from the White House.