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Witnesses Raise ‘Security Vulnerabilities’ Concerns at Navy Yard After Shooting

September 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Judy Woodruff speaks with Bloomberg News' Chris Strohm, who spoke to eyewitnesses on the scene at a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Employees recounted hearing gunshots and hiding under their desks, and weighed in on the screening practices to get into the building.
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JUDY WOODRUFF:  We get more now on this developing story from Bloomberg News reporter Chris Strohm. He has been reporting from the scene all day, and I spoke with him a short time ago.

Chris Strohm, thank you very much for talking with us.

First of all, tell us where you are and then tell us what you have been able to piece together about what happened.

 CHRIS STROHM, Bloomberg News: I’m in the southeast quad of Washington, D.C., just down the street from the Washington Navy Yard, where the shooting today took place.

And according to witnesses who are coming out, we’re beginning to piece together the scene that took place inside today. This morning, a gunman opened up fire. The gunman has been identified by authorities as Aaron Alexis, who is a 34-year-old former Navy Reservist.

And witnesses have told us that early in the morning, when the gunshots began, there was a lockdown order given. Some people were able to exit the buildings. One witness that I talked to, a commander, Tim Jarvis, said that he witnessed another individual be shot when he came out into an alley. Some witnesses were able to leave the scene. Others were in lockdown all day, and they’re just getting out now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you finding out, Chris Strohm, from eyewitnesses about what they saw, what the gunman did?

CHRIS STROHM: Witnesses are saying that a lot of the activity, that the shooting was — when they were in their offices, they heard bangs. And some witnesses immediately locked their doors and turned off their lights and hunkered down.

Other witnesses were able to look out windows and see the police move in. They saw SWAT teams, FBI agents hunkered down. They heard the gunshots, and they remained in the — in their office buildings until they were given clearances by the police for them to be able to go.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did any of them see anyone shot?

CHRIS STROHM: One commander that I talked to, a Navy commander, was in his office early this morning when he heard — when he heard the fire alarm go off.

And he exited the building into an alley. And when he got into the alley, he saw another man there, and they began to talk. And within a minute, gunshots burst out. And the man he was talking to was shot in the head. And this Navy commander ran from the scene for his own safety. And he never saw the actual shooter, but he heard the gunshots and saw somebody be killed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there — from the people that you have talked to, that building is a very secure place. It’s part of a Navy complex there. How difficult would it be to get in?

CHRIS STROHM: We’re actually hearing about — it’s a mixed bag when it comes to security at this building, according to the people that we have been talking to. There are people who are saying that, yes, there are heightened security measures that are at the compound, at the Navy Yard.

But at the same time, there’s not a kind of routine screening of people when they come in and out of the compound. Individual buildings have different levels of security, but there are people who have been telling us that they can people can — people can come in and out of the Navy Yard with very little screening.

And we have talked with some witnesses who say that they think that there is some security vulnerabilities that need to be fixed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Up until just a short time ago, as far as we know, police are still looking for another suspect. Do you know anything about that? And how are people dealing with this, the fact that someone might be at large?

CHRIS STROHM: Yes. The police have told us that they are — there’s still another potential suspect, potentially. They don’t have any, you know, firm information.

There was another individual, a middle-aged man wearing military attire, who was seen and is a suspect at this point that police are still looking for. They originally thought there might be even another shooter, a third one, but they have actually ruled that out. And the one shooter that they do know who has been identified at Aaron Alexis is — was shot and killed in a shoot-out with police.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Chris Strohm with Bloomberg News, thank you very much.

CHRIS STROHM: Thank you.