By Kyle Eppler, Pete Williams and Erin McClam, NBC News
The mother of Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter, said Wednesday that she was heartbroken and sorry for the families of the victims, and that she was glad he is “in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone.”
In a brief statement to a reporter in New York, the mother, Cathleen Alexis, said that her son “has murdered 12 people and wounded several others.”
“His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims,” she said, her voice trembling. “I don’t know why he did what he did, and I’ll never be able to ask him why. Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that I am glad.”
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She added: “To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.”
She took no questions after the statement.
Earlier in the day, a woman whom Aaron Alexis stayed with in Thailand last year said that he was crazy “in a positive way, like funny” and that she was shocked to learn that he had carried out the massacre at Navy Yard. The spree ended when Alexis was gunned down by officers.
The woman, Om Suthamtewakul, is the sister of a former roommate of Alexis’ in the United States. She told NBC News in an interview that Alexis stayed with her for a month and a half and showed no sign of anger.
“So I can’t really believe how he can shoot those people,” she said in Thai. “He looked kind of like, you know, bonkers, crazy, in a positive way, like funny, but, so I really can’t believe this.”
President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service for the Navy Yard victims on Sunday, the White House press secretary said. Two days after the shooting, Navy Yard employees were told by text and email that they could retrieve their cars from the base, and the commander said that it would be back at full operation on Thursday.
Authorities say that they are still looking for a motive. Since Alexis carried out the attack, on Monday at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, signs have emerged of a troubled history.
Alexis, who served as a naval reservist from 2007 to 2011 and worked more recently as a civilian contractor, had a military disciplinary record that included disorderly conduct, insubordination and unexcused absences.
Police in Rhode Island said that he had called them Aug. 7 and said that he had changed hotels twice because he believed people were chasing him and sending vibrations through the walls to keep him from sleeping.
Police in Newport, R.I., said that they had forwarded their report to police at the naval station in Newport. U.S. military officials told NBC News on Wednesday that they had found no evidence that the naval police forwarded the information to any higher command outside the base.
Alexis also had run-ins with the law over gun violence. He was accused in 2004 of shooting the tires out of a car in Seattle, and in 2010 of firing a gun into an upstairs apartment in Fort Worth, Texas.
Friends and relatives of Alexis’ have also said that he had a preoccupation with the Sept. 11 attacks, felt slighted as a veteran, had money problems and was so unhappy with his life that he considered leaving the United States.
According to the latest account put together by investigators, Alexis went into a fourth-floor bathroom carrying a bag, took out his shotgun, then went to a fourth-floor balcony and began firing into an atrium below.
Alexis then went to the first floor, shot a security guard and took his handgun, and went back upstairs to resume the rampage, investigators say. Most of Alexis’ victims were hit with shotgun blasts, but others were hit by bullets from the handgun.
Criminal profilers say that mass shootings often begin with a single target in mind, but investigators in the Navy Yard shooting have not identified any such prime target for Alexis.
Authorities said Alexis used a Remington shotgun to shoot a police officer and a security guard before taking one of their handguns and continuing his rampage.
He rented an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and used it for target practice at a Northern Virginia gun range and store less than two days before his shooting spree. Some earlier reports said that he had used an AR-15 in the shootings, but the FBI said Tuesday that it did not believe he did.
J. Michael Slocum, a lawyer for Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Va., said in an email to NBC News that Alexis on Saturday bought a Remington 870 shotgun and roughly 24 shells of ammunition. Alexis listed his residence as Texas.
Slocum said he had no information on whether Alexis sought to purchase an AR-15 the day he visited Sharpshooters. Alexis bought the shotgun legally in Virginia, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
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