Mother of Washington killer Aaron Alexis: ‘I am so very sorry this happened’

Cathleen Alexis ‘heartbroken’ over her son’s killing spree at US Navy base this week

The US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, has ordered two reviews of military-security and employee-screening programmes in view of this week’s mass shooting at a Washington Navy Yard base, acknowledging that “a lot of red flags” were apparently missed.

Former Navy reservist Aaron Alexis shot dead 12 people on Monday, before being killed by police in a shoot-out. The incident has sparked soul-searching at the Pentagon on whether Alexis’s string of minor arrests and mental-health issues should have disqualified him from receiving security clearance for the secure Navy facility.

“There were a lot of red flags,” Mr Hagel told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. “Why they didn’t get picked, why they didn’t get incorporated into the clearance process, what he was doing – those are all legitimate questions that we’re going to be dealing with.”

Meanwhile, Alexis’s mother offered her apologies to the families of the victims today.

Flanked by a pair of local clergymen inside her apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, today, Cathleen Alexis read a brief statement, saying, “I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.” She wore black, and did not take questions from the assembled reporters.

Alexis, who was 34, grew up in New York but had not lived there for more than 10 years. It is not yet clear how much contact he maintained with his mother, father and two sisters, who all still live in the city. The gunman’s family said they were shocked by his actions, but that Alexis had long suffered mental-health problems.

His father, Algernon Alexis, reportedly told police that his son had helped to rescue victims from the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, and subsequently claimed to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. As yet, however, there is scant evidence that he was among the first responders following the 9/11 attacks.

Bishop Gerald Seabrooks holds up the statement made by Cathleen Alexis (AP) Bishop Gerald Seabrooks holds up the statement made by Cathleen Alexis (AP)  

Alexis is thought to have sought help for his mental illness. In 2004, he was accused of shooting out the tyres of a vehicle whose occupants he claimed had “mocked” and “disrespected” him. In 2010, after complaining of noise coming from his upstairs neighbour’s flat in Texas, the Navy reserve fired a gun through his own ceiling, narrowly missing the woman who lived there.

Last month, Alexis called police to a hotel where he was staying in Newport, Rhode Island, and told them he was hearing voices, claiming a “microwave machine” was being used to send vibrations into his body. According to the police report of the incident, Alexis had become embroiled in an argument earlier that day, accusing a stranger of sending people to follow him.

The Washington Nationals observe a moment of silence before their game on Tuesday night (AP) The Washington Nationals observe a moment of silence before their game on Tuesday night (AP)  

Alexis was honourably discharged from the Navy two years ago. His most recent employer was an IT firm, The Experts, subcontracted by Hewlett-Packard to a job at the Navy Yard in south-east Washington, DC, where Alexis was assigned last week before carrying out the attacks.

Ms Alexis said in her statement today: “Our son, Aaron Alexis, has murdered 12 people and wounded several others. His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims. I don’t know why he did what he did, and I’ll never be able to ask him why. Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone. And for that I am glad.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower