SEATTLE — Nearly a decade before his rampage, Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was ordered to keep away from guns as a condition of his release for a malicious mischief arrest in Seattle, according to courtroom audio obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Alexis was taken into custody in 2004 after police say he shot out the tires of a vehicle parked near his grandmother’s home, where he was living at the time. Alexis was never charged, but the shooting provides a window into his runs-in with the law that happened long before the Navy IT contractor gunned down 12 people then died in a shootout this week.
After his Seattle arrest, Alexis appeared in King County District Court, where a prosecutor asked that he be jailed on $25,000 bail pending a decision on whether charges should be filed.
Instead, Judge Mariane Spearman agreed with the defense, who asked that Alexis be released on two conditions: that he not have guns, and that he not have contact with the alleged victims — construction workers building a house next door.
“The concern here is how the malicious mischief was done — with a gun,” the deputy county prosecutor, Laura Petregal, told the court.
The judge agreed that was a concern.
“What I’m afraid of is, he just picked at random one of these construction worker’s car and shot the tires out,” Spearman said. “If he goes home tonight and there’s another car parked in front of his house, is he going to get angry again, and what’s he going to do to that person’s car? How are we going to be assured there’s not going to be any further problems?”
Alexis’ lawyer, Raymond Connell, said his client had no other guns, and Alexis assured the judge he wouldn’t contact the construction workers.
“So, if you come home from work and there’s no place to park in front of your house?” Spearman asked.
“I’ll park down the block,” Alexis said.
Under state law, a person cannot be held for more than 72 hours without charges being filed. In Alexis’ case, the conditions of his release were in force only for that period. There was nothing in the record to suggest Alexis violated either condition.
It remains unclear why he was never charged. Seattle police said they referred the case for prosecution in municipal court, but the city attorney’s office says it never received the case file to review for prosecution.
According to police reports, Alexis admitted shooting out the tires in an anger-fueled blackout. He told investigators the workers next door had “disrespected him” and “mocked him” that morning after he discovered his vehicle had been tampered with.
Seattle police said Monday that Alexis’ father told detectives Alexis had anger management problems associated with PTSD, and had participated in rescue attempts on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Washington Navy Yard shooting was the deadliest attack at a domestic military installation since November 2009, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas.
Alexis, a former Navy reservist, was able to obtain and keep a security clearance despite his 2004 arrest and a 2010 arrest in a shooting that damaged property at a Fort Worth, Texas, apartment. No charges were filed in that case, either.