In 2012, 77 arsons plagued a small, rural community on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Over the span of five months, Accomack County residents and firefighters could not pin down the culprit, who was widely suspected to be a member of their community.
The Washington region is still recovering from Monday’s shootings at the Navy Yard, which left at least 12 people dead. Law enforcement authorities are still investigating the potential motives behind the rampage. Meanwhile, local leaders are focused on ensuring the safety of residents and returning disrupted portions of the city to normalcy. Kojo chats with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells about the ongoing response to the shootings.
- Tommy Wells Democratic Mayoral Candidate, District of Columbia; Member, D.C. Council (D-Ward 6); Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety
- Vincent Gray Mayor, District of Columbia (D)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, navigating the web may soon be more complicated. "Tech Tuesday" explores the upcoming launch of hundreds of new internet domains, from dot casino to dot green. But first, Washington a day after the shooting spree at the Navy Yard.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAuthorities are still investigating yesterday's violence in the District, which left 13 people dead, including the suspected shooter. As law enforcement officials focused today on piecing together the motives behind the rampage, local leaders are trying to restore normalcy to the portions of the city that were shut down during Monday's chaos, all the while, ensuring the safety of residents, many of whom remain shaken a day later.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us now by phone to talk about this is Tommy Wells. He's a member of the D.C. Council. He represents Ward 6, the area of the city where yesterday's shooting at the Navy Yard took place. Councilmember Wells, thank you for joining us.
MR. TOMMY WELLSYes, of course.
NNAMDICouncilmember Wells, this is a part of the city that you represent. Much of it was on lockdown during the aftermath of the shooting spree. What's your focus today, and what do you see as your role for your constituents, who were affected by the shootings, and the people who work in your Ward who were affected by all of this?
WELLSWell, one of the roles, certainly, during, while the shooting and the crisis was happening was that, to provide as much information as possible to parents that were worried about their children in the schools that were under lockdown. Lockdown meant that you could not go get your child, could not get into the school. Nobody could. And, so we provided information to parents.
WELLSI also, yesterday, during this, I went, later in the afternoon, I went down to the senior buildings and checked in on them, because I knew that they may be frightened. And so, a lot of it is just to communicate and be sure everybody knows what's going on. Now today, and days moving forward, really, I think parents are gonna be talking to their children about what happened, especially children that are seven or eight years old and older.
WELLSAnd schools did a fabulous job of trying to have a normal day yesterday, even though they're under lockdown, so the children would not be frightened. And, so, we just move back to normalcy. It is a horrific thing that occurred, but we need to do our best to getting back to being a normal neighborhood.
NNAMDIYou are the Chairman of the Council's Public Safety Committee. Can you describe for us, if you will, how you were kept in the loop, because there were so many agencies involved in yesterday's action, both from a law enforcement and from an emergency services perspective, so that you could inform your constituents and perform your job as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee?
WELLSWell, I was called first thing in the morning by the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, Paul Quander, to alert me to what was going on. And then, later in the day, when I found out that one of our police officers had been shot, and Kojo, a very heroic police officer. These officers, they sign up to be part of the active shooter team, meaning these are the officers that run towards the gunman while everyone, obviously, is fleeing for their own safety.
WELLSAnd we had an officer that was shot very severely in the leg. And then, we had our firefighters and paramedics really, you know, help treat this firefighter. I mean, the officer, get him to the hospital. He underwent many hours of surgery and we believe he's gonna be okay. The heroism of our officers, and our first responders is just breathtaking. I'm very proud of them, and our whole city needs to be proud of them, because the courage involved in extraordinary.
NNAMDIOur guest is Tommy Wells. He's a member of the D.C. Council who represents Ward 6. That's the area of the city where yesterday's shooting at the Navy Yard took place. If you have questions for Councilmember Wells, or comments, give us a call at 800-433-8850, or send email to email@example.com. Tommy Wells, a lot of people may be headed down to the baseball stadium today where a double header is scheduled.
NNAMDIWhat concerns do you have about activities of that scale returning to the area so soon after the shooting and so close to the scene of the ongoing investigation? What advice would you have for people?
WELLSWell, our police chief has announced all, you know, everything's clear, and that we would not be going down there if it were not safe. I think it's a beautiful day. I think we need to go down, everyone that, you know, is going down today for the double header, go enjoy it, being mindful of the losses that we've had, asking everyone to wear navy blue and gold as kind of a symbolic thought, a way to be thinking of those that we lost and what happened at the Navy Yard.
WELLSWe acknowledge it, but we've gotta get back to normal, and I think we can, so I think everyone should just go about their business. And, I think also the traffic will be fine down there. My understanding is already -- things have been cleared out. Take the Metro, if you can, and enjoy the day. Enjoy the game, but at the same time, as we all are, thinking about the victims and the families of the shooting.
NNAMDIThis is a neighborhood in which a lot of energy has been spent making it a hub for commercial activity, recreational activity, night life. What concerns might you have about how the shootings might affect the arc, so to speak, of that neighborhood?
WELLSWell, you know, we're -- this is one of the nicest emerging new neighborhoods in the country. And it's a mixed income neighborhood. It's a neighborhood that has three new parks. Two of them are world class, two of the nicest new parks on the eastern seaboard. It's a place where you can go recreate, live, work, play. And it's a neighborhood -- this will not be any setback at the neighborhood. We know that we're a federal city.
WELLSThere's three military bases in my ward alone. Fort McNair, the marine base, you know, on 8th Street, and, of course, the Navy Yard. And we're very aware that we're a federal city. We support, you know, the people that come here to work, on behalf of our country, and we have a very sophisticated, you know, populous here in D.C. We're gonna move on, but we're always aware of the roles and responsibilities that we have being the nation's capital.
NNAMDITommy Wells, thank you so much for joining us.
WELLSThank you very much, Kojo.
NNAMDITommy Wells is a member of the D.C. Council. Her represents Ward 6, the area of the city where yesterday's shooting, at the Navy Yard, took place. Joining us now, by phone, is the mayor of the District of Columbia, Mayor Vincent Gray. Mayor Gray, thank you for joining us.
MAYOR VINCENT GRAYThank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIMayor Gray, the investigation has been taken over by federal authorities. What is your immediate focus today as the investigation continues and that part of the city remains a crime scene?
GRAYWell, we're continuing to be supportive. We were very involved, of course yesterday. I was out there, you know, starting very early yesterday morning until about 11:00 last night. Today, we are talking to lots of people who want to know what our involvement was yesterday, what we did. We're talking about our impressions of what happened yesterday to the extent you can. You know, we don't really know what the motive is yet.
GRAYBut, you know, what our impressions are, why this may have been done. And then, of course, there are lots of people who want to talk again about gun control, which is a huge subject for us. And it certainly would be great, Kojo, if we could get something done on this. I frankly thought, in the wake of the Sandy Hook situation, that we would have seen something nationally, but we haven't.
NNAMDIWe haven't, and the general impression one gets, Mr. Mayor, is that, as a result of these events occurring, we are becoming a culture that may be becoming inured to this kind of event. In a way in which we both kind of expect and kind of accept these events, that we don't seem to mourn them as long as we did in past. Is that a concern of yours?
GRAYAbsolutely a concern of mine, and, you know, we've seen so many situations where people just harden themselves against the realities. But, you know, we're talking about the destruction of life. We lost, you know, 13 lives yesterday. We lost the 12, the people who were the shot, and then the shooter himself was killed, of course. Hopefully, you know, this happening in the nation's capital, this happening on a military base, perhaps this will rekindle some of the efforts to bring about legitimate, you know, real gun control in this nation.
GRAYYou know, why can't we do background checks on people as a national policy? What about the ban of assault rifles? You know, when you go back and look at the second amendment of the Constitution, this can't possibly be what our founding fathers had in mind. And when you listen to people talk about guns, they don't talk about this kind of carnage that we see in the streets and what we saw yesterday.
GRAYThey talk about people being able to defend themselves and, you know, legitimately hunt. That is not exactly what we're talking about here with what happened yesterday and what's happened in so many other instances in this nation.
NNAMDIIf, in fact, this event fails to generate a new conversation, if it fails to generate new initiatives or new laws on gun control, what do you think that says about the state of our nation today?
GRAYWell, it's hard to know, really, what it says. It's hard for me to believe that, seemingly, one organization, which is the NRA, can exert the kind of control over this country that it has, Kojo. We've got so many legislators who seem to cower in the face of NRA, and when they stand up and speak, people simply respond to it. I think, though, the voices have to continue. You know, we've had the issues around Jim Brady. We've had organizations that have emerged from that. I think we've got to continue the conversation because what is the alternative?
GRAYTo let people continue to kill themselves in this fashion? You know, there certainly are other issues involved in this, like the mental health issues. You know, like how does someone get a credential to get on a base when he has such a checkered past? But, at the end of the day, it still raises questions about the control of these kinds of weapons in this country.
NNAMDIBack to the investigation at hand, Mayor Gray. Where would you direct residents who may have seen something that could contribute to the investigation of the shooting?
GRAYWell, certainly call the, you know, call M.P.D. They can call 911 or 311, or call the FBI. The FBI, of course, now is taking the lead in this investigation. And I think the number is 1-800-CALL-FBI. And, of course, you can pull the numbers from that, but 1-800-CALL-FBI. And, again, if you see something, say something. If somebody saw something that is germane to this investigation, please step up.
GRAYWe did have people yesterday who stepped up, thinking that they saw other suspects who were involved in this, and those leads were diligently followed. They did not prove to yield anything, which I'm glad of that. But, if there are other aspects of this investigation, or knowledge of this gentleman, Aaron Alexis, who was the shooter, that people know of, please let the authorities know and those leads will be followed immediately.
NNAMDIWe talked with Councilmember Tommy Wells just before we talked to you. He represents that part of the city. Do you have any specific concerns about the security of that part of the city? It's a bustling commercial hub there now. It's got a baseball stadium, a lot of people working in that corner of the city.
GRAYWell, it's true, but remember that this was a man who had, you know, been given credentials to go into the Navy Yard and work. You know, it has been one of the safest installations, at the federal level, in the country. I just had a meeting, it was coincidental of course, but I had a meeting on Friday with the Commandant of the Navy Yard, and one of the things that we talked about was the security of the Navy Yard.
GRAYAnd we were both, you know, admiring the fact that there has been -- there had been nothing to breach the security of the Navy Yard, even though, in a number of instances, they have events there that bring a lot of people onto the Navy Yard. But there had been nothing to suggest that people could be in periled. And, again, you know, this is a situation where a man had the identification, the credentials to come in the Navy Yard and work.
GRAYSo, that's where we've gotta start this. I don't worry about, you know, what's gonna go on in the immediate area. What we need to worry about is who are we committing into these installations?
NNAMDINavy Yard is the oldest military installation in the country. Most Washingtonians have, at some point or the other, participated in some event at the Navy Yard. Mayor Gray, thank you so much for joining us.
GRAYThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIVincent Gray is the Mayor of the District of Columbia. He joined us to talk about the aftermath of the tragedy at the Navy Yard yesterday. We are going to take a short break. When we come back, it's "Tech Tuesday." Navigating the web may soon be more complicated. We explore the upcoming launch of hundreds of new internet domains from dot casino to dot green. Dot Kojo, anyone? I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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