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DC gunman treated for insomnia before shooting: veterans' agency

Flowers, flags and a child's drawing are pictured at a makeshift memorial outside the Navy Yard two days after a gunman killed 12 people bef
Flowers, flags and a child's drawing are pictured at a makeshift memorial outside the Navy Yard two days after a gunman killed 12 people bef

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Navy Yard gunman was treated for insomnia in August at hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but said he did not have violent thoughts and did not seek care from a VA mental health specialist, the VA said on Wednesday.

Aaron Alexis, 34, a veteran of the Navy Reserve who had a security clearance to enter bases as an information technology contractor, was shot dead by police on Monday after opening fire on people at the Navy Yard complex, killing 12 people.

Since his death, investigators have searched for clues about his motives while the Pentagon looks for missed red flags that would have indicated he was a potential threat.

Rhode Island police warned the U.S. Navy in August that Alexis had reported "hearing voices." Alexis had told police he believed people were following him and "sending vibrations into his body," according to a Newport police report.

The VA said that Alexis, while in Rhode Island in August, visited the emergency room at the VA Medical Center in Providence on August 23 complaining of insomnia. He was given sleep medication.

On August 28, less than three weeks before Monday's shooting, he went to the emergency room at the VA Medical Center in Washington DC seeking a refill. He attributed his insomnia to his work schedule, the VA said.

But Alexis told doctors he did not have violent thoughts, the VA said.

"On both occasions, Mr. Alexis was alert and oriented, and was asked by VA doctors if he was struggling with anxiety or depression, or had thoughts about harming himself or others, which he denied," the VA said.

It added that Alexis never sought an appointment from a VA mental health specialist and had previously canceled or failed to show for primary care appointments and claims evaluation examinations.

Alexis, it added, was receiving $395 a month in disability benefits for "orthopedic issues" and tinnitus -- a ringing in the ears, it said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by David Storey)

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