The Richmond Register

September 17, 2013

Madison County native recalls Navy Yard shooting

By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Washington Navy Yard worker Earl (Larry) Lovings said a large amount of paperwork in his office may very well have saved his life Monday.

Lovings, who grew up in Madison County and graduated from Madison Central High School in the early 1980s, had just sat down at his desk in the shipyard’s Building 201. It sits about 200 feet from Building 197, which an armed shooter entered and killed 12 people before being stopped by various law enforcement agencies. Eight people also were injured.

“I usually go in and out of that building three or four times a day,” Lovings said.

He said Building 197 is the main headquarters for the shipyard, and in a regular business day there could be about 2,000 people working there.

A former Navy service member, Lovings said he and others in his building tried to keep as quiet as possible and moved to two rooms for security. From there he had a bird’s eye view of what was happening nearby.

“I saw one person, who had been injured themselves, bring two other injured people to the roof of the building (197),” Lovings said. “The Capitol Police helicopter, with a police sniper, landed and took them away.”

He then described how law enforcement officers landed on and secured the roof of the building, effectively sealing the gunman inside. Once all possible exits from the building were guarded, Lovings said an “alphabet soup” of federal agencies, including the ATF and the FBI, entered 197 to evacuate people in the building and search for the shooter.

Before it was converted to an office building, 197 was a warehouse used to store weapons. Therefore, it doesn’t have a standard layout law enforcement could predict as they cleared it.

“I can only imagine what those guys had to go through in order to find that man,” Lovings said.

As people were led out of 197 by law enforcement, they were brought into Building 210 with Lovings and his fellow office workers. Everyone in the building was kept there from about 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and they weren’t allowed to leave until they gave their information to the FBI.

“We had to give them our names, where we worked, date of birth, place of birth and work cell phone numbers,” he said.

Lovings said the reaction of everyone at the ship yard that day was simply shock, as well as curiosity.

“We were all just in shock that this was someone who had access (to the facility),” he said. “Could we have prevented it? Maybe, maybe not. Naval Sea System Command lost 12 men and women to a senseless act of violence.”

The shooter, identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis by federal law enforcement officials, was reported to be a contractor doing computer work for the Navy. Alexis was killed in a gun battle with police.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.