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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 20th, 2013
05:35 PM ET

Unraveling the Navy Yard killer's past

Four days after a gunman killed 12 people inside Washington's Navy Yard, and officials seem no closer to understanding the motives of the killer, Aaron Alexis.

Alexis was a contractor at the naval station, who used valid identification to bring in a shotgun and shoot victims inside building 197 for a full half-hour.

The question remains: How did a man with so many personal demons get clearance?

The New York Times reports that Alexis worked for a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor called "The Experts," and that the company called Alexis's hotel in Newport, Rhode Island, and said he was unstable, and they were bringing him home.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, chief of information for the U.S. Navy, said they are investigating whether the company alerted the Navy.

"If they brought him back from Newport saying he was unstable, what's he been doing since then? Looks like he had access to other naval installations including the Navy Yard, of course, so we would like to better understand exactly what happened between then and Monday's shooting," said Kirby.

It's also been reported that Newport police told the Navy about an incident on August 7, when he told police he was hearing voices, and that people were using a microwave to send vibrations through his body. The police said they reported the incident to the Rhode Island naval station.

"Right now it doesn't appear as if the security officers there at the Newport naval station did anything in terms of raising it up to the chain of command," said Kirby. We're asking "why that didn't occur and whether it should have occurred."

Investigations show Alexis stayed in Newport for a couple days, and, Kirby said, actually stayed at the naval station's on-base hotel.

Government contractor USIS did the background check on Alexis, and also did the background check on NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The contractor does not appear to be doing a good job screening contractors.

"They are being investigated for exactly that right now," said Kirby. "Clearly we have grave concerns. This is, as you pointed out, the second one, so it does raise some serious questions and those questions are being asked."

The Washington Post reports that investigators are looking into whether some sort of workplace dispute had anything to do with this shooting.

"I don't have any sense of the motive or how he went about killing who he went about killing," said Kirby.

There have been questions as to whether any of the 12 victims killed, or the three wounded, were shot by Alexis, or friendly fire. Kirby said he sees "no indication of any friendly fire."

"Everything I've seen, and again, I'm not party to the investigation, tells me that Aaron Alexis was the shooter," said Kirby.

CNN reported earlier this week that the Navy in 2007 knew about an incident with Alexis in 2004, when he shot out car tires and claimed that he had had an anger-fueled blackout. That would seem to be the first red flag that Alexis should not be trained by the U.S. military, should not be given access to weapons, and should not be representing the United States in the world.

Why would the Navy let him in?

After the shooting, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus ordered a deep dive into Aaron Alexis's service record. Kirby said that investigation is about to wrap up, and at the moment, the details surrounding that 2004 shooting are hazy.

"We don't know right now how much of the details, the specifics of that shooting incident, the navy was aware of when they granted him the security clearance," said Kirby.

"This is a very complex situation. We obviously have a disturbed individual, at best a below average sailor," said Kirby. "Clearly there's incidents in his service that are questionable. We're trying to get the answers to this and I think it's important that we don't rush to judgment here."

"It's important that we take the time and really do the home work to figure out what happened and more importantly, to your questions, what didn't happen that might, that should have happened," said Kirby.

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