(Photo: Reuters/Fort Worth Police Department/Handout via Reuters)
Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old former Navy reservist identified as the man behind the Navy Yard shootings in Washington on Monday that killed 12 people, is said to have been obsessed with shooter video games, to the point where friends would even bring him food during marathon sessions.
"He cursed a lot, but I [didn't] see him angry very much," Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, said of the shooter, who he described as a friend and drinking buddy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Suthamtewakul said that sometimes Alexis would play for hours, and he would bring him plates of food during marathon binges.
A number of questions remain behind the deadly incident on Monday that rocked the nation with the latest mass shooting on American soil. Initial reports said that two other men were suspected to have acted with Alexis, but authorities now say they believe he acted alone. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier revealed that the 34-year-old was a military subcontractor and had access to the Navy Yard, though the reasons for him leaving the military were not immediately clear.
Reports on Tuesday noted that Alexis had apparently exhibited signs of mental illness dating back more than a decade, including one recent incident where he claimed to be hearing voices and thought that people were sending him "vibrations" to prevent him from sleeping. Last month, Alexis apparently called the Newport Police Department in Rhode Island to complain of severe hallucinations.
Police have failed to establish a motive for his actions so far, however.
Suthamtewakul noted that as an African American, sometimes Alexis complained about racial bias and said that he was a victim of discrimination. Other than that, Alexis spoke fluent Thai, and made a "positive impression" with customers at Suthamtewakul's restaurant, where he worked for a while.
One Happy Bowl Thai customer, 37-year-old Christian pastor Jason Williams, even described Alexis as "one of the most polite people I've ever met," and added that the two often spoke civilly about religion issues.
America has suffered through a number of mass-scale shootings in recent times, most notably the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn., where a lone gunman fatally shot 20 children and six school staff members. Social commentators have tried to offer a number of different reasons why some people turn to extreme levels of violence – violent entertainment, including video games, has been suggested as one possible influence.
"Gun control proposals now circulating in Washington and in many state capitals don't address a more important issue – the constant stream of violence put forth by the entertainment industry," the Rev. Franklin Graham wrote in a statement in February.
"Every year brings a flood of movies, not to mention cable and television programs, that are filled with violence. Whole segments of America's music industry make their profits from song lyrics that glorify gratuitous violence, and there is seemingly an endless number of video games that are nothing more than murder simulators."