Did Navy Yard Shooter Aaron Alexis Slip Through The Cracks In Seattle?

September 18, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Although Navy Yard shooting suspect Aaron Alexis was arrested in 2004 in Seattle for allegedly shooting out the tires of another man’s car, multiple officials in Washington State told TPM this week they are unsure what ultimately happened to his case.

Based on records and interviews with officials, it appears the case was never brought to the attention of a prosecutor. Instead, Alexis was simply released after his arrest in a situation that a representative for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office repeatedly described as a “mystery.”

A police report released Monday by the Seattle Police Department detailed the circumstances of Alexis’ arrest, which occurred on May 6, 2004. According to that report, two construction workers accused a man police identified as Alexis of shooting three bullets into the rear tires of their car after they parked near a home where he was staying.

The police report said officers were unable to contact Alexis on May 6. However, an officer collected three spent shell casings on the scene that were compatible with a .45 caliber Glock registered to Alexis. On June 3, 2004, Alexis was arrested at his home, where police also recovered the gun. After he was read his rights, the report said Alexis “confessed to the crime of discharging his weapon for the purpose of shooting out the tires on the car.” Police said Alexis told officers the owner of the car had “mocked” and “disrespected” him, leading to “what Alexis described as a ‘black-out’ fueled by anger.” On June 15, 2004, the police report indicated the case was “prepared then referred to the Seattle Municipal Court for charges of Property Damage (over $50) as well as Discharge of a firearm.”

However, the only records involving Alexis at the Seattle Municipal Court are three cases for traffic infractions.

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Normally, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office is the prosecuting agency that handles cases in the Seattle Municipal Court. However, on Monday, Kimberly Mills, who is the communications director at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, told TPM her office never received the report for Alexis’ case from the police. Mills said and that the only cases the Seattle City Attorney’s Office has on Alexis are the “speeding tickets.”

“It’s kind of a mystery to us because the notes in the police report say it was referred to Municipal Court,” Mills said of the case involving Alexis and the tire shooting, the records of which were released online Monday. “That report never made it to our office, so we didn’t have the ability to review it. Whether we would have filed charges or not is unknown but it never came into our system.”

Though she was mystified by the fact her office did not appear to have received the case, Mills offered a possible explanation. She said she had been informed by journalists who called on Monday to inquire about Alexis’ case that, in spite of what it said on the police report, he may have actually appeared in another court that is outside Seattle, but in the same county.

“The other part of this mystery is that there is something called King County District Court, which operates on the same level outside the city limits,” said Mills. “I have been told by other reporters actually that Mr. Alexis made a first appearance, possibly a second appearance in King County District Court and there it ended. So, it’s kind of two mysteries at the same time.”

Mills said it would have been unusual for Alexis’ case to have been referred to the King County District Court rather than Seattle Municipal Court.

“I don’t know how he got to district court. It would have been more appropriate and logical for him to have appeared in municipal court with us having filed charges,” Mills said.

On Tuesday, Dan Donohoe, the press secretary for the King County Prosecutor’s Office, told TPM that records showed Alexis did indeed appear in King County District Court following his arrest. According to Donohoe, it was an “initial appearance” and Alexis was “released on his personal recognizance” and barred from contacting the victim.

If Alexis’ case was taken to King County District Court rather than Seattle Municipal Court, it seemingly should have been referred to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, which would have determined whether or not to file charges. However, Donohoe said the case was never referred to prosecutors there.

“There was an initial court appearance after his arrest and then after that a case was not referred to our office for a charging decision,” said Donohoe.

When asked what may have happened to Alexis after his release, Donohoe advised TPM to see if Alexis’ case had “been sent over to Seattle Municipal Court.” After being informed that Mills said there was no record of the case in that court, Donohoe suggested to “check with Seattle Police.”

TPM spoke with Mark Jamieson, a public information officer with the Seattle Police Department. Jamieson confirmed the department’s records indicated Alexis’ case was referred to Seattle Municipal Court. Because of this, Jamieson said, he could not explain why Alexis ended up appearing in King County District Court.

“I don’t know if I have a good answer for you,” Jamieson said.

Jamieson also said he was unaware of any other courts or prosecutors who might have dealt with Alexis’ case besides Seattle Municipal Court and King County District Court.

“I think you’ve talked to everybody,” said Jamieson.

If he had been convicted, Mills said Alexis could have faced up to a year in jail.

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