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.
"He works in the Defense Department, no problem there," the doctor added.
Alexis also denied owning any weapons when asked by doctors, a claim backed up by FBI officials who searched his apartment after the shooting.
In another doctor appointment on August 28, Alexis repeated his trouble with insomnia, but denied having any feelings of hopelessness or depression. He was once again given antidepressants as treatment.
On September 16, Alexis went on a shooting spree in the Navy Yard with a shotgun he purchased two days prior. Twelve people were killed and another eight injured. Alexis himself was killed in a confrontation with police.
Some critics of the VA doctors, including lawmakers and at least one lawyer who’s representing a shooting victim, claim the medical staff was not thorough enough in its observation of Alexis. Others, meanwhile, argue there wasn’t much else that could be done if an individual directly denies suffering from depression or thoughts of suicide/homicide.