In the aftermath of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. September 16, like with most mass-shootings, it is customary to examine every aspect of the perpetrator’s life and as soon as possible. Like James Holmes, Jared Loughner, and Adam Lanza, it’s Aaron Alexis’s time in the spotlight. He was killed at the scene, which only tends to add to the specter of mystery that surrounds mass-killers and the public’s search to make sense of the crime.
Cathleen Alexis, Aaron Alexis’s mother, spoke to reporters on September 17, reading a prepared statement and taking no questions. She expressed that the entire situation has left her heartbroken, and offered up an apology to the victims and their families. “Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that I am glad,” she said.
Still, anyone with even a tertiary connection to the shooter is speaking in the press. A woman in Thailand who let Alexis stay with her during a visit is quoted alongside his mother in a report from NBC News. She called him “funny” and “bonkers,” but provides no substantive insight about the shooter or his crime.
Alexis’s brother-in-law, Anthony Little, also spoke to the press after both the NYPD and the FBI visited Cathleen Alexis’s home in Brooklyn as part of their investigation. After admitting that he never personally met Aaron Alexis, Little described the family as “very distraught” and struggling with the emotional shock of the event.
Such attention given to the shooter’s motives or persona life be the news media can contribute to the likelihood of more mass-shootings, more so than violent video games or music choices. Still the events are newsworthy and public interest is high, creating a dilemma for editors and news producers.