US killer had Thai links
- Published: 17/09/2013 at 08:17 AM
- Online news:
The man accused of killing 12 people at the historic Washington Navy Yard in the United States had taught himself Thai and recently visited Thailand to begin plans to move to the country, friends and law enforcement said Tuesday.
Aaron Alexis, 34, lived and worked for three years with Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in Fort Worth, up to Monday, when he went on the rampage that cost 12 innocent people and himself their lives.
Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, lived with the alleged killer for three years and never saw any sign of aggression. (Photo from TV screen grab)
Customers and Mr Nutpisit described him to US media as "friendly and polite". Mr Nutpisit said Alexis had a strong interest in Buddhism, and often meditated.
"He didn't seem aggressive" at all, the Thai businessman said.
He and Alexis lived in an apartment owned by another Thai-Texan, Somsak Srisan. "I never saw him get angry about anything," said the apartment owner of his 34-year-old tenant.
Friends said Alexis spoke Thai well, and was self-taught. A Thai customer at the Texas restaurant told a CNN reporter that the accused killer's Thai was "fluent". Alexis had recently visited Thailand and had held - and apparently lost - an IT job in Japan.
From 2008 until his discharge in 2011, Alexis was a member of an aviation support squadron based in Fort Worth, Texas, where he worked on C-40s, a military version of the Boeing 737 that the US Navy uses as a cargo plane. Law enforcement officials said that he was more recently working as a military contractor.
However, there was another side to Alexis that the Thais and others apparently failed to see.
He was kicked out of the US Navy in 2011 after an arrest for firing a gun into a neighbour's apartment.
Alexis told customers while working at Happy Bowl that he had moved to Fort Worth while working with the military and decided to stay on.
He was seen frequently at a Buddhist temple, meditating and helping out.
But Alexis "had a pattern of misconduct," the official said.
By Tuesday morning Thailand time, law enforcement officials had identified Alexis as the shooter who went on a two-hour rampage at the sprawling naval base in Washington, but have not yet said what they believe was his motive.
- Full details: News roundup of killing spree
Alexis, a native of New York, who served in the US Navy from 2007 to 2011 as an aviation electrician's mate 3rd class, entered the base early Monday morning, authorities said, perhaps using another man's identification card to pass through the gates.
Once inside, officials said, he headed for the massive Building 197, the headquarters of the Navy Sea Systems Command. Armed with three weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, he went to the building's fourth floor, according to officials. About 8.15am, (7.15pm Monday night in Thailand) according to witness accounts and police dispatch recordings, the gunman began shooting down into a crowded atrium that houses an employee cafeteria.
Washington police and Navy security officials engaged in "multiple" exchanges of fire with Alexis over the next two hours, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters, eventually shooting and killing him.
In addition to the 12 people killed, three others were treated at hospital, with two requiring surgery. All three are expected to recover, hospital officials said. Officials said other people may have suffered injuries that did not require hospitalisation.
On Sept 5, 2010, Alexis was arrested in Fort Worth on suspicion of discharging a weapon. Alexis reportedly told officials that the gun had discharged accidentally when he was cleaning it. The Tarrant County district attorney did not prosecute.
The FBI poster on Alexis asks the public for any information it has on the alleged shooter, but provides no hint of his links to Thailand. (Poster from FBI.gov website)
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