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U.S. shooting suspect got honorable discharge despite misconduct record

A combination photo shows Aaron Alexis, who the FBI believe to be responsible for the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard in the Southeast
A combination photo shows Aaron Alexis, who the FBI believe to be responsible for the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard in the Southeast

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Texas man suspected of killing 12 people in a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2011, even though he exhibited a pattern of misconduct during his career, a Navy official said on Tuesday.

Initial reports indicated the man, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old Navy contractor, had received a general discharge from the Reserve, a category that suggests an unsatisfactory record. But the Navy official said Alexis had in fact applied for and received an honorable discharge.

Alexis entered Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning and gained access to the secure Navy Sea Systems Command building, where he went on a shooting spree that spread panic at the base just a mile and a half from the U.S. Capitol. He was armed with an AR-15 military-style assault rifle, a double-barreled shotgun and a handgun, a law enforcement source said.

A military official said that before discharging Alexis honorably, the Navy had been pursuing a general discharge against him on a series of eight to 10 misconduct charges, ranging from traffic offenses to disorderly conduct.

However, when it became evident the case against Alexis would not support a general discharge, he was allowed to apply for an early discharge under what is known as the Early Enlisted Transition Program, which is only used for honorable discharges, the military official said.

Alexis had a spate of run-ins with both civilian and military authorities while he was in the Navy Reserve as full-time support employee. He was arrested in DeKalb County, Georgia, in 2009 on a disorderly conduct charge, and was accused of discharging a firearm by authorities in Fort Worth, Texas.

His misconduct in the Navy Reserve included everything from unauthorized absences from work to insubordination and disorderly conduct, including one involving drunkenness.

He received non-judicial punishment from the military for both the military and civilian misconduct charges, said a Navy official, who did not know the exact punishment.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Vicki Allen and David Brunnstrom)

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