Navy Yard Shooting Reiterates Need to Heed Warning Signs


workplace violenceOn September 16, 2013 another tragic incident of workplace violence occurred at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.  An IT contractor, Aaron Alexis, who had security clearance, came to work and starting shooting all those eating breakfast in the Atrium below him at the headquarters for the Naval Sea Systems Command.  Twelve people including the gunman died and many more were injured.  This horrific incident emphasizes the need for workplace officials to heed warning signs that they observe.  In this case, reportedly there were many warning signs that officials should have paid more attention to prior to providing Aaron Alexis with security clearance.

What are some of the many warning signs that someone may be likely to engage in violence?  They include if an individual displays some or many of the following:

  • Talking about an attack
  • Paranoid thoughts
  • Threatening Co-Workers
  • Threatening Bosses
  • Showing guns or bragging about guns to Co-workers
  • Harassment of Other Employees
  • Showing Signs of Substance Abuse
  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Unusual Behavior
  • Being a Loner
  • Excessive Cursing
  • Bullying Others
  • Outbursts of Anger
  • Frequent Absenteeism
  • Sudden Withdrawal

According to a report in the New York Times, there were many warning signs that should have prevented Mr. Alexis from getting the security clearance to work at this secure facility.  Apparently, according to Navy officials Mr. Alexis had previously left the Navy after being given a general discharge in 2011 because he was exhibiting a “pattern of misbehavior,”.  The Navy officials apparently refused to provide any more information on what that “pattern of misbehavior was.  Apparently there were more warning signs as well.  Just the year prior to being discharged from the Navy, Mr. Alexis had been arrested in Texas for discharging a firearm.  This occurred in response to a complaint by an upstairs neighbor alleging that Mr. Alexis had confronted her in the parking lot allegedly complaining that she was making too much noise.

Years before this incident in 2003, Seattle police reported that Mr. Alexis had been arrested for  having shot the tires of another man’s vehicle.  This incident was later described by Mr. Alexis himself as an anger-fueled “blackout”.  Obviously authorities are questioning why with all these clear warning signs, Mr. Alexis was ever provided with this security clearance which allowed him complete access to this secure naval facility in which he brutally attacked and killed fellow co-workers and staff.

Employers should heed the warning signs of applicants prior to hiring them and certainly prior to providing them with any type of security clearance.  In addition, employers should ensure that they conduct background checks to determine if there are these types of warning signs to prevent claims of negligent hiring.  Many of those at the Naval Sea Systems Command spent hours hovered in hiding spots attempting to avoid being shot by this lone gunman.  The scene at the Navy Yard was described by those inside as completely chaotic reported the New York Times.  This also evidences the need for employers to provide Workplace Violence Prevention Training on an annual basis to their entire workforce so workers can have an emergency plan and know how to react without panicking when and if an incident of workplace violence occurs in their workplace.

Below is a demo of our Workplace Violence Prevention Training Webinar.  Please contact to enroll today or call us at 914-417-1715,


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