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Navy Minimized Shooter's Prior Gun Charge Record in Background Check

By Andrea Billups   |   Tuesday, 24 Sep 2013 12:42 PM

Federal contractors hired to vet Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis for security clearance knew about his prior gun charge and that he had not reported it, but failed to pass that information on to the Navy, which issued his clearance.

Navy officials confirmed Monday that their own investigators "minimized the incident" over a prior arrest for shooting out someone's tires when Alexis applied to join the service in 2007, the Washington Post reported.

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Their admission on Monday points to an effort to look past Alexis' mental health issues and violent history, which led to a horrific shooting rampage on Sept. 16 that killed 12 people. It also stands in stark contrast to previous statements by the federal Office of Personnel Management that Alexis' background check, performed by the Falls Church contractor USIS, was "in compliance with all investigative standards," the Post noted.

A senior Navy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Post that it remained unclear whether Alexis would have obtained a security clearance if they had known about his arrest and that he had lied on his application.

Alexis' 2004 arrest in the tire shooting was dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor charge by Seattle police, who later lost the paperwork in the case and dismissed the charges. He reportedly told investigators he did not disclose the arrest because it had been dismissed.

The Veteran's Administration also confirmed last week that Alexis had been treated for insomnia but never for mental health problems, NBC News reported.

The VA's admission came after multiple sources close to Alexis noted he had complained of issues repeatedly, including hearing voices.

The VA said in a statement that he had been seen at their medical facilities twice and had sought refills on medication related to insomnia.

Other signs of mental health problems had been missed.

"On both occasions, 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, all of which he denied," the VA said.

Background investigators also failed to review other crucial information in their vetting. Alexis had several bad debts related to education and auto loans before he applied to join the service, yet another fact he had failed to disclose on his application for the Navy, USA Today reported.

In the wake of the Navy Yard shooting, the Office of Personnel Management is requesting that future investigations include "any available police documents related to the subject being investigated for clearance eligibility," said Juan Garcia, the Navy's assistant secretary for manpower.

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