Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis.
The Washington Navy Yard gunman who killed 12 people last year conned Veterans Affairs doctors into believing he had no mental health issues before the shootings.
WASHINGTON — The gunman who killed 12 people in last year’s rampage at Washington’s Navy Yard lied so convincingly to Veterans Affairs doctors before the shootings that they concluded he had no mental health issues despite serious problems and encounters with police during the same period, according to a review by The Associated Press of his confidential medical files.
Gunman’s doc. before rampage: ‘No problem there’
Just weeks before the shootings, a doctor treating him for insomnia noted that the patient worked for the Defense Department but wrote hauntingly “no problem there.”
The AP obtained more than 100 pages of treatment and disability claims evaluation records for Aaron Alexis, spanning more than two years. They show Alexis complaining of minor physical ailments, including foot and knee injuries, slight hearing loss and later insomnia, but resolutely denying any mental health issues. He directly denied having suicidal or homicidal thoughts when government doctors asked him about it just three weeks before the shootings.
In a bizarre incident in Newport, R.I., Alexis told police on Aug. 7 that disembodied voices were harassing him at his hotel using a microwave machine to prevent him from sleeping. After police reported the incident to the Navy, his employer, a defense contracting company, pulled his access to classified material for two days after his mental health problems became evident but restored it quickly and never told Navy officials it had done so.
Just 16 days later, after Alexis told a VA emergency room doctor in Providence that he couldn’t sleep, the doctor wrote that his speech and thoughts seemed “clear and focused” and noted that he “denies flashbacks, denies recent stress.”
The medical records said Alexis, 34, was found sleeping in the VA waiting room in Providence on Aug. 23 while waiting to see a doctor. During that visit he was prescribed 50 milligrams of trazodone, an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication that in such low doses can be used to treat insomnia.
“Denies any pain except discomfort rt (right) temple,” a nurse wrote on Aug. 23. “Pt (patient) taking no medications including any otc (over-the-counter) medications.”
An attending doctor provided additional details, saying Alexis suffered from fatigue after sleeping only two or three hours every night over the past three weeks.
“Speech and thoughts clear and focused. Denies flashbacks. Denies recent stress. Denies drugs, cocaine, heroin, caffeine product, depression, anxiety, chest pain, sob (shortness of breath), nightmares. He denies taking nap during the day. Denies SI (suicidal ideation) or HI (homicidal ideation),” the doctor wrote.
“He works in the Defense Department, no problem there,” the doctor added.
The medical records showed that Alexis answered “no” when asked, “Do you have anything that could be considered a weapon?” The VA told the AP that was a standard question it asks veterans whom it treats in a triage setting.
Five days later, on Aug. 28, Alexis visited a VA medical facility in Washington, again complaining of sleeplessness: “Patient presents to ER with c/o (case of) awakening each morning about 4 a.m. like clockwork and he cannot figure out why this is happening.”
He answered “no” when asked whether he was having feelings of hopelessness for the present and the future. Another doctor that night described the examination as “unremarkable.” The VA gave him 10 more tablets of trazodone and sent him home just before 9 p.m.
Doctors found ‘no problem’ with Navy Yard shooter weeks before rampage
Veteran Affairs doctors were so sure the Washington, DC, Navy Yard gunman was clear of mental issues they declared there was “no problem” with him just weeks before his shooting spree killed 12 people.
According to a new report by the Associated Press, medical records for the 34-year-old gunman Aaron Alexis showed him complaining of insomnia multiple times, as well as physical problems such as hearing loss and foot injuries. Three weeks before his violent outburst, Alexis adamantly denied harboring any suicidal or homicidal thoughts.
In early August, Alexis told police that disembodied voices were using a microwave in his hotel room to keep him awake. The defense contractor employing Alexis revoked his ability to access classified material after this came to their attention, but reinstated his access soon afterwards and declined to inform the Navy of its actions.
Just over two weeks later, Alexis was treated by a VA doctor for insomnia and given an antidepressant to help him sleep. The medical staff did not find anything of significant concern.
“Speech and thoughts clear and focused. Denies flashbacks. Denies recent stress. Denies drugs, cocaine, heroin, caffeine product, depression, anxiety, chest pain, [shortness of breath], nightmares. He denies taking nap during the day. Denies [suicidal ideation] or [homicidal ideation],” the doctor wrote, according to the AP.