A shooting rampage at a Washington naval base claimed at least 12 lives, including that of an unidentified gunman, city police chief Cathy Lanier told reporters on Monday. Lanier said two more potential suspects were still at large after the shooting at the Washington Naval Yard and that the motive of the shooter or shooters was not yet known.
At least one police officer was among the wounded as police and federal agents descended on the installation, blocking streets only blocks from the US Capitol, home of Congress.
“We have one shooter that we believe involved in this that is deceased,” Washington police chief Cathy Lanier told a press conference. “The big concern for us right now is that we potentially have two other shooters that we have not located at this point.”
Lanier said one suspect was a white male seen with a handgun and wearing khaki clothes that resembled a naval uniform. The second suspect is a black male in his 50s who possibly had a ‘long gun’ and was clad in an olive-drab, military-style uniform, she said.
But, with conflicting reports about the incident swirling,
Lanier said the details on the potential surviving suspects were not confirmed as police searched for the two men.
There was still no precise toll of the dead and injured but Lanier said: “I’d say we have multiple victims inside that are deceased.”
She did not say how the gunman died and earlier media reports had said a shooter had allegedly barricaded himself in a room in a headquarters building.
The shooting was described as “an isolated incident” by the city’s mayor, Vincent Gray, and US officials did not cite any suspected link to terrorism.
It was unclear how one or more gunman could have penetrated the heavy security that surrounds the Navy Yard, which is located on the Anacostia River, less than three kilometers from the Capitol.
But the description of the two other potential shooters perhaps wearing uniforms raised the possibility the attack was carried out by insiders who had military passes to enter the facility.
The police chief confirmed a Washington DC police officer was among those injured in the rampage, and hospital officials said he was in critical condition with wounds to his legs.
One employee at the Navy Yard, Patrica Ward, said she had just paid for her breakfast at a cafeteria when shots rang out.
“I was waiting for my friend to pay for when we heard the gunshot. It was three gunshots straight in a row, ‘pow-pow-pow,’” she told reporters. “Three seconds later it was ‘pow-pow-pow.’ So it was like a total of seven gunshots. And we just started running.”
The guard “told all of us to just run, to get away as fast as you can.” She said employees do not have to pass through a metal detector when they enter the building.
Police blocked off intersections around the Navy Yard as military troops in uniform stood guard at street corners and patrol boats moved in near the site along the banks of the Anacostia river. Crowds of onlookers stood on sidewalks watching the drama unfold and at a construction site near the Navy Yard.
White House briefed
The White House said President Barack Obama had been briefed several times about the shooting spree by top security and counter-terrorism officials.
“As this investigation moves forward, we will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible,” Obama said.
The US president lamented that America was confronting “yet another mass shooting” and said service men and women should not have to expect to confront danger at home.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2013.