WASHINGTON - New reports are emerging about the increasingly bizarre behavior of Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis in the weeks before Monday's shooting rampage, including notes from workers at a Rhode Island hotel who said his unstable actions had frightened guests and allegedly prompted his employer to bring him home.
The New York Timesreports Friday that Alexis was struggling to cope with his behavior while staying at a Residence Inn in Newport, R.I., where the 34-year-old computer specialist was living while on assignment for his employer, The Experts Inc. The Times spoke to employees at the hotel and examined the hotel's daily logbook.
At one point, Alexis called police himself to report hearing voices and "vibrations" sent through his hotel-room walls. He also visited a VA hospital in Providence and five days later in Washington, the Times reports, quoting unidentified sources. The report says that he sought help for insomnia and told doctors he was not thinking of harming others.
"Mr. Alexis was alert and oriented, and was asked by VA doctors if he was struggling with anxiety or depression, or had thoughts about harming himself or others, which he denied," the Department of Veterans Affairs said in a memo sent to Congress on Wednesday, the Times notes.
The Times also recalls an incident Aug. 4 at Norfolk Airport in which Alexis became belligerent and began shouting obscenities because he said he thought a woman in a wheelchair, who was chatting with family members, was laughing at him. The incident, first reported by Fox News, ended with airport security calming him down.
The erratic behavior was at odds with the recollections of friends in Fort Worth who knew Alexis as an easygoing guy who practiced Buddhism and spoke fluent Thai -- but who steadily complained about a lack of jobs and money and liked to carry a pistol in his belt.
The Washington Post reports Friday that authorities are investigating whether a workplace issue might have sparked the killings, which left 13 people dead, including Alexis.
The newspaper says that people in the department where Alex was working had concerns about his job performance. The Post says investigators are probing whether those concerns got worse in the last week.
The shooting began on the fourth floor of the Navy Yard building where he was working to upgrade computers.
"He was not doing a very good job, and somebody told him that there was a problem," one law enforcement official tells the newspaper. "Our belief is that the people who were shot first were people he had issues with where he worked, people he had some sort of a dispute with. After that, it became random. . . . After the first shootings in that office, he moved around and shot people he came upon. They were then targets of opportunity."
The Post says Alexis' employer declined to comment.
The FBI has also declined to speculate on Alexis's motives it continues to investigate the case.
"We're attempting to understand as best we can his life up until the moment of that shooting, which would include trying to understand whether there were any issues related to work," FBI Director James B. Comey told reporters on Thursday.
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