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Texas Friends Describe Aaron Alexis as Devout Buddhist With an Angry Streak

Aaron Alexis
Aaron Alexis

At this point, no one is quite sure what made 34-year-old Aaron Alexis walk into the Washington D.C. Navy Yard on Monday and allegedly open fire, killing 13 people. Yesterday afternoon, the FBI put out a call "for any information regarding Alexis."

"No piece of information is too small," Valerie Parlave, assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, told the media. "We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements, his contacts and his associates."

The media spent Monday digging up exactly that. Public records and interviews reveal Alexis as a complex character, a devout and good-natured Buddhist who harbored serious anger issues.

See also: Aaron Alexis, Dead Washington Navy Yard Shooting Suspect, Used to Live in Fort Worth

"He never had a threat in his voice or anything like that," Michael Ritrovato, identified as a close friend, told The Dallas Morning News.

Kristi Suthamtewakul, another close friend who, along with her husband, runs Fort Worth's Happy Bowl Thai restaurant, where Alexis sometimes worked, told WFAA: "He just didn't seem like he was that kind of person who would be upset enough to do something like this. That's why we're confused."

And Melinda Downs, his former roommate, told the station, "I've seen him mad, but not murder mad."

That anger, though, may have been more of a problem than friends realized. He's been arrested three times in three states over the past decade and was discharged from the Navy Reserve, in which he served from 2007 to 2011, for "a pattern of misconduct."

Here's the Washington Post's summary of those incidents:

In 2004, Alexis was arrested in Seattle after he fired three shots from a Glock pistol into the tires of a Honda Accord that two construction workers had parked in a driveway adjacent to Alexis's house. Alexis's father told detectives then that his son "had experienced anger management problems that the family believed was associated with PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the police report. The father said Alexis had been "an active participant in rescue attempts of Sept. 11, 2001."

Alexis's explanation for his behavior that day: The construction workers had "mocked" and "disrespected" him and then he had "a black-out fueled by anger."

He was arrested but not charged, Seattle police said. The paperwork apparently was lost.

Four years later, he spent two nights in jail on a disorderly conduct charge. Then came his 2010 arrest in Fort Worth. He was living in the Orion at Oak Hill apartments at the time when, according to police, he fired a handgun through his ceiling.

The woman above called the cops and told them that she was "terrified" of Alexis and that he had confronted her in the parking lot a few days before about making too much noise. Alexis explained to police that he had been cleaning the gun while cooking dinner, which was why his hands were slippery, which was how his hand slipped and pulled the trigger.

He was booked into jail, but the Tarrant County DA's office determined the shooting was accidental and decided not to prosecute.

The Morning News offers the most thorough account of Alexis' time in Fort Worth. He befriended a group of Thai Buddhists while working at the naval base there, and he began attending the Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center.

He lived with Happy Bowl co-owner Oui Suthamtewakul for three years while he learned Thai from conversations with friends and watching Thai dramas on TV. He moved out when the Suthamtewakuls got married and not long after that landed a job with a contractor for a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary that took him to D.C.

When he left, he seemed excited about the move, offering no hint of what was to come. His friends are left searching for clues in his penchant for violent video games, moody streak, and his resentment that the federal government didn't pay him what he was owed.


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