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NAVY YARD GUNMAN TOLD POLICE HE WAS HEARING VOICES

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 06:48 Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) — A month before he went on the shooting rampage that killed 12 people, Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel rooms and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep.

The account, contained in an Aug. 7 report from Newport, R.I., police, adds to the picture that has emerged of an agitated and erratic figure whose behavior and mental state had repeatedly come to authorities' attention but didn't seem to affect his security clearance.

Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee at a defense-related computer company, used a valid pass Monday to get into the Navy Yard and then killed 12 people before he was slain by police in a shootout that lasted more than a half-hour.

A day after the assault, the motive was still a mystery. U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that investigators had found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.

Alexis, a former Navy reservist, had been undergoing mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs since August but was not stripped of his security clearance, according to the law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.

He had been suffering from a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said.

The assault is raising more questions about the adequacy of the background checks done on contract employees who hold security clearances — an issue that came up recently with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered two security reviews Tuesday of how well the Navy protects its bases and how accurately it screens its workers.

Similarly, President Barack Obama has ordered the White House budget office to examine security standards for government contractors and employees across federal agencies.

Mert Miller, associate director of Federal Investigative Services for the Office of Personnel Management, said in a statement that federal budget, personnel and intelligence officials were working to "review the oversight, nature and implementation of security and suitability standards for federal employees and contractors."

In general, he said, background security clearance investigations cover information about an individual's criminal history.

In addition, the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees asked the VA for details about any treatment provided to Alexis.

At the U.S. Navy Memorial, in church and on the baseball field, the nation's capital paused to mourn the victims on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid a wreath at the memorial's "Lone Sailor" statue as taps played.

Just a few blocks from the Navy Yard, the Washington Nationals were back to playing baseball after their Monday night game with the Atlanta Braves was postponed because of the shooting. The Nationals wore blue and gold Navy caps during warm-ups, and a moment of silence was held before the first pitch.

Those killed included: Michael Arnold, 59, a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at home; Sylvia Frasier, 53, who worked in computer security; Frank Kohler, 50, a former Rotary Club president in Lexington Park, Md., who proudly reigned as "King Oyster" at the annual seafood festival; and marine engineer and naval architect Vishnu Pandit, 61, an Indian immigrant.

In the Newport, R.I., incident, Alexis told police he got into an argument with someone as he was getting on a flight from Virginia to Rhode Island, where he was working as a naval contractor, and he said the person sent three people to follow and harass him.

He said he heard voices talking to him through a wall while at one hotel, so he changed hotels twice, but the voices followed him, according to the report. He said he feared they might harm him.

He also "stated that the individuals are using 'some sort of microwave machine' to send vibrations through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he cannot fall asleep."

Later that day, Newport police alerted the Rhode Island naval station and sent a copy of the police report, Newport police Lt. William Fitzgerald said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the station had no comment Tuesday.

Alexis came to the Washington area about two weeks later and had been staying at hotels. On Saturday, two days before the attack, he went to a Virginia gun store about 15 miles from the Navy Yard.

He rented a rifle, bought bullets and took target practice at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range, the store's attorney Michael Slocum said. Alexis then bought a shotgun and 24 shells, according to Slocum.

The FBI said during Monday's attack Alexis was armed with a shotgun. Officials said he also took a handgun from a law officer.

A recording of an emergency transmission released Tuesday captures the tense moments after the shooting. A firefighter tells a dispatcher as sirens wail in the background, "We have active shooter on the fourth floor. I'll get you update on the building location, with several victims down. At this time I've requested the mass casualty bus."

In addition to those killed at the Navy Yard attack, eight people were hurt, including three who were shot and wounded, authorities said. Those three were a police officer and two female civilians. They were all expected to survive.

Alexis had run-ins with the law in 2004 and 2010 in Texas and Seattle after he was accused of firing a gun in anger. He was not prosecuted in either case.

And his bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and being absent from work without authorization prompted the Navy to grant him an early — but honorable — discharge in 2011 after nearly four years as a full-time reservist, authorities said.

"He wasn't a stellar sailor," Navy spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told CNN. "We know that."

But he said the offenses weren't "grievously serious" and the punishments for them are fairly mild. Kirby said there was a proposal to "administratively separate him from the Navy," with less than an honorable discharge, but Alexis volunteered to leave early and received an honorable discharge.

"Looking at his offenses while he was in the Navy, that the offenses while he was in uniform, uh, none of those give you an indication that he was capable of this sort of brutal, vicious violence," Kirby said.

As for Alexis' security clearance, Kirby said he received one around the time he enlisted. "It was good for 10 years. And it was at the secret level. So the security clearance was valid when he left the Navy in 2011. And because he wasn't out of work very long before he took this next job, the security clearance went with him."

Alexis joined the Florida-based IT consulting firm The Experts in September 2012, leaving a few months later to return to school. He came back in June to do part-time work at the Washington Navy Yard as a subcontractor, helping the military update computer systems.

The Experts' CEO, Thomas Hoshko, said that Alexis had "no personal issues," and he confirmed that Alexis had been granted a "secret" clearance by the Defense Security Service five years ago.

Alexis' clearance — lower than "top secret" — doesn't need to be renewed for 10 years. Still, the company said it hired outside vendors twice to check Alexis' criminal history.

Said Hoshko: Alexis' background check "came back clear."

___

Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek, Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.

Holliday leads Cards to 11-4 win over Rockies

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 23:30 Published in Sports

 

DENVER (AP) -- Matt Holliday had four hits, including a two-run homer, to help the St. Louis Cardinals take over sole possession of the NL Central with an 11-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.

The Cardinals entered the night tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost 5-2 at home to San Diego. St. Louis reduced its magic number for clinching a playoff spot to five with 11 games remaining.

Joe Kelly (9-4) baffled the Rockies as he allowed three hits over five sharp innings before turning a 10-0 lead over to the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has been one of the team's most consistent pitchers since becoming a permanent member of the rotation in July.

Juan Nicasio (8-8) struggled with his command, lasting just 2 2-3 innings and allowing eight runs, which tied a career high.

Holliday led an 18-hit night by the Cardinals, who had seven players with at least two hits. Holliday finished 4 for 4 with a walk, double and two-run homer against his former team. He drove in three runs and scored twice.

The Cardinals ran away with the game in the third when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six times. Daniel Descalso had a two-run triple in the decisive inning, while Holliday added a double and an RBI single.

Colorado's Michael Cuddyer finished 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI to raise his average to.331, which is tops in the NL.

Kelly hardly seemed intimidated in his first start at Coors Field. He didn't allow a base runner to reach as far as third base until the fourth inning. He wiggled out of that jam when first baseman Matt Adams corralled Josh Rutledge's liner.

Once Kelly was out of the game, the Rockies went to work as they scored four runs off reliever Carlos Martinez in the seventh. But the bullpen shut down the Rockies from there, with Kevin Siegrist striking out pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco to end the game.

Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter was frequently on base for the Cardinals, with two singles and a hit by pitch. He leads the league hits (187), doubles (51) and multi-hit games (60).

Yadier Molina gave the Cardinals a lead in the first inning with a two-out single to center. Molina is one of the top hitters in the league with runners in scoring position.

Todd Helton nearly tied the game in the bottom half of the first, but Holliday made a leaping catch against the fence in left field.

The 40-year-old Helton announced last weekend his decision to retire after his 17th season with the Rockies. He leaves as the franchise's leader in virtually every offensive category.

NOTES: Kelly is 9-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 starts this season. ... The only Cardinals starter without one was OF Carlos Beltran. ... St. Louis will send RHP Adam Wainwright (16-9) to the mound on Wednesday, while the Rockies counter with RHP Tyler Chatwood (7-4). ... Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado missed the game after aggravating his right thumb on Monday. "He may be down for a few days," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Tuesday. "His thumb is real tender." ... Rockies C Yorvit Torrealba replaced Wilin Rosario (right calf soreness) in the third inning.

GUNMAN IN NAVY YARD RAMPAGE WAS HEARING VOICES

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 10:55 Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) — The former Navy reservist who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been hearing voices and was being treated for mental illness in the weeks before the shooting rampage, but was not stripped of his security clearance, officials said Tuesday.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee with a defense contractor, used a valid pass to get into the highly secured installation Monday morning and started firing inside a building, the FBI said. He was killed in a gun battle with police.

The motive for the mass shooting — the deadliest on a military installation in the U.S. since the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 — was a mystery, investigators said.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that there was no known connection to terrorism and that investigators have found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motive.

Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.

He had been treated since August by Veterans Affairs, the officials said.

The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.

The assault is likely to raise more questions about the adequacy of the background checks done on contract employees and others who are issued security clearances — an issue that came up most recently with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, an IT employee with a government contractor.

In the hours after the Navy Yard attack, a profile of Alexis began coming into focus.

A Buddhist convert who had also had flare-ups of rage, Alexis, a black man who grew up in New York City and whose last known address was in Fort Worth, Texas, complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination. He also had run-ins with the law over shootings in 2004 and 2010 in Texas and Seattle, and was ticketed for disorderly conduct after being thrown out of a metro Atlanta nightclub in 2008.

Alexis' bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and being absent from work without authorization prompted the Navy to grant him an early — but honorable — discharge in 2011 after nearly four years as a full-time reservist, authorities said. During his service, he repaired aircraft electrical systems at Fort Worth.

In addition to those killed at the Navy Yard attack, eight people were hurt, including three who were shot and wounded, authorities. Those three were a police officer and two female civilians, authorities said. They were all expected to survive.

The dead ranged in age from 46 to 73, officials said. A number of the victims were civilian employees and contractors, rather than active-duty military personnel.

Those killed included: Michael Arnold, 59, a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home; Sylvia Frasier, 53, who worked in computer security; Kathleen Gaarde, 63, a financial analyst; and Frank Kohler, 50, a former president of the Rotary Club in Lexington Park, Md., who proudly reigned as "King Oyster" at the region's annual seafood festival.

Monday's onslaught at a single building at the Navy Yard unfolded about 8:20 a.m. in the heart of the nation's capital, less than four miles from the White House and two miles from the Capitol. It put all of Washington on edge.

"This is a horrific tragedy," Mayor Vincent Gray said.

Alexis carried three weapons: an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun that he took from a police officer at the scene, according to two federal law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

The AR-15 is the same type of rifle used in last year's shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults. The weapon was also used in the shooting at a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 70.

For much of the day Monday, authorities said they were looking for a possible second attacker who may have been disguised in an olive-drab military-style uniform. But by late Monday night, they said they were convinced the shooting was the work of a lone gunman, and the lockdown around the area was eased.

"We do now feel comfortable that we have the single and sole person responsible for the loss of life inside the base today," Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.

President Barack Obama lamented yet another mass shooting in the U.S. that he said took the lives of American "patriots." He promised to make sure "whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible."

The FBI took charge of the investigation.

The attack came four years after Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood in what he said was an effort to save the lives of Muslims overseas. He was convicted last month and sentenced to death.

At the time of the rampage, Alexis was an employee with The Experts, a company that was a Defense Department subcontractor on a Navy-Marine Corps computer project, authorities said.

Valerie Parlave, head of the FBI's field office in Washington, said Alexis had access to the Navy Yard as a defense contractor and used a valid pass.

The Washington Navy Yard is a sprawling, 41-acre labyrinth of buildings and streets protected by armed guards and metal detectors, and employees have to produce their IDs at doors and gates. More than 18,000 people work there.

The rampage took place at Building 197, the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, which buys, builds and maintains ships and submarines. About 3,000 people work at headquarters, many of them civilians.

Witnesses on Monday described a gunman opening fire from a fourth-floor overlook, aiming down on people on the main floor, which includes a glass-walled cafeteria. Others said a gunman fired at them in a third-floor hallway.

Patricia Ward, a logistics-management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria getting breakfast.

"It was three gunshots straight in a row — pop, pop, pop. Three seconds later, it was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, so it was like about a total of seven gunshots, and we just started running," Ward said.

__ Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.

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