The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Area residents, military experience anguish of shootings
As the news traveled of a shooter at the Washington Navy Yard, the Quantico and Dahlgren military bases tightened security; employees anguished over the well-being of colleagues; and police swept into a Stafford County neighborhood pursuing leads.
Monday’s drama, played out on national TV, was another example how the Fredericksburg area is inextricably linked to the military and its vast workforce here.
For instance, a few hours after the shooting started, police swooped into Stafford’s Stowe of Amyclae neighborhood northwest of the county courthouse.
Usually, the only people there in the early afternoon are students walking home from nearby Rodney Thompson Middle School.
But the middle-schoolers had to compete for sidewalk space with various media outlets who staked out a house on that street following a potential lead in Monday morning’s Navy Yard shooting.
Neighbors also turned out in their yards to watch the crowd outside the home on Temple Drive.
The home’s owner became involved in the investigation after authorities said his ID may have been used by the shooter to enter the Navy Yard. Police do not believe the Stafford man was involved in the shootings and have said the gunman acted alone.
Attempts to reach residents of the home for comment on Monday were unsuccessful. A relative told The Washington Post that the man was not at the Navy Yard on Monday and that he had no information on what happened.
Federal investigators entering and leaving the house declined to speak to reporters.
Neighbor Dawn Lewis, 47, said she and the man’s wife walk and work out together sometimes.
“They’re a very nice family,” she said. “I hope everyone is OK.”
Kerry Simmons, 39, who lives a couple of blocks away and works with Lewis at Living Hope Child Development Center in Stafford, watched the scene from Lewis’ driveway.
She said she had never seen that much activity in the neighborhood.
Early in the afternoon, police identified a shooter: Aaron Alexis, 34, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who most recently lived in Texas. Alexis was a former Navy reservist and defense contractor. At least 13 people were reported killed, including Alexis.
Many of the defense contractors and military personnel at the Dahlgren Navy base in King George County have links to the Navy Yard. The Naval Sea Systems Command at the Navy Yard engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and their combat systems.
“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and the families affected by the horrific tragedy at the [Navy Yard], where we have a very close connection with our NAVSEA and NSWC headquarters,” Capt. Michael H. Smith, commander of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, said in a statement. NSWCDD is the largest tenant command at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.
“We are extremely concerned for the safety of our colleagues at the Navy Yard. At this time, we are remaining vigilant here”
The Dahlgren base raised its force protection security level a notch from normal to the next stage of readiness.
And Marine Corps Base Quantico added more guards at its front gate. A spokesman there said no one from Quantico was working at NAVSEA during the shootings.
The Navy released a message at about 6:30 p.m. saying that workers at the D.C. base would not be released until after an interview with the FBI. Some of the Navy Yard’s employees had been “sheltered in place” in their respective buildings since the shooting started.
The lockdown around the Navy Yard impacted other federal workers, who were forced to seek alternative transportation home via carpools or trains.
An employee at the nearby U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters said that, as of 3 p.m., carpool vans and personal vehicles were prohibited from leaving. The worker, asked not to be named, traveled home to Stafford on the Virginia Railway Express.
The last shooting at an area military base was in March at Quantico, in which three Marines died in what officials said was a murder–suicide.
—Staff librarian Craig Schulin contributed to this report.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431