Navy yard shooting victims' portraits emerge

A dozen people were killed by a lone gunman in a shooting rampage Monday at the Washington navy yard. On Tuesday, the stories of some of those who died started to surface.

12 people shot dead include navy veteran, IT expert, Washington Redskins fan

Washington Navy Yard shooter

8 years ago
Duration 4:38
CBC's Lyndsay Duncombe has the latest on Aaron Alexis, the suspect in the navy yard shooting in Washington 4:38

A dozen people were killed by a lone gunman in a shooting rampage Monday at the Washington navy yard. It was the deadliest attack at a domestic military installation since November 2009, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas. Early Tuesday, the stories of some of those who died started to surface.

The dead ranged in age from 46 to 73, officials said. A number of the victims were civilian employees and contractors, rather than active-duty military personnel.

Navy veteran, avid pilot

Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., was a navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home, said his uncle, Steve Hunter.

"It would have been the first plane he ever owned," Hunter said in a telephone interview from Rochester, Mich., Arnold's hometown. "It's partially assembled in his basement."

Hunter said his nephew retired from the navy as a commander or lieutenant commander and had previously been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He worked at the navy yard on a team that designed vessels such as the USS Makin Island, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship used by the Marine Corps.

Arnold and his wife, Jolanda, had been married for more than 30 years, Hunter said. They had two grown sons, Eric and Christopher.

Site manager, community volunteer

Frank Kohler is survived by his wife and two daughters. (Rotary Club of Lexington Park/Associated Press)
Frank Kohler, 50, was a past president of the Rotary Club in Lexington Park, Md. As such, he proudly held the title of "King Oyster" at the annual festival celebrating the region's signature bivalve the third weekend of each October.

"He walks around with a crown and robe and gives out candy," said Bob Allen, Kohler's former boss at Lockheed Martin in southern Maryland. "In fact, he was in charge of the beer stand. I used to have that job and when I left, I handed it off to him."

The married father of two college-age daughters had driven up to the Washington Navy Yard for a meeting Monday when the shootings occurred, friends told Allen. Allen said Kohler had taken over for him as site manager for the defence contractor, but he was unsure what business his friend had at the Navy Yard.

Kohler lived on the water with his wife, Michelle, an employee at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Allen said his friend loved to boat and fish, and went on frequent hunting trips to Canada.

"A great family man, a Christian, and a great friend," he said. "It just doesn't seem possible. I mean, you hear about these things all the time ... But when you know somebody, it just makes it all the worse ... It's a Huge loss for southern Maryland."

Information technologist

Sylvia Frasier, 53, had worked at Naval Sea Systems Command as an information assurance manager since 2000, according to a LinkedIn profile in her name.

Frasier studied at Strayer University, earning a bachelor of science in computer information systems in 2000 and a master's in information systems in 2002. Her duties at NAVSEA included providing policy and guidance on network security, and assuring that all computer systems operated by the headquarters met Department of navy and Department of Defence requirements.

She also led efforts "to establish and implement procedures to investigate security violations or incidents," according to the profile.

Her brother, James Frasier, declined comment Monday night.

Financial analyst, mother

Kathleen Gaarde, 63, of Woodbridge, Va., was a financial analyst who supported the organization responsible for the shipyards, her husband, Douglass, wrote in an email to the AP early Tuesday.

"Today my life partner of 42 years (38 of them married) was taken from me, my grown son and daughter, and friends," he wrote. "We were just starting to plan our retirement activities and now none of that matters. It hasn't fully sunk in yet but I know I already dearly miss her."

Utilities foreman, Redskins fan

Kenneth Proctor, 46, worked as a civilian utilities foreman at the navy yard, his ex-wife, Evelyn Proctor, said. He spent 22 years working for the federal government.

The Waldorf, Md., woman spoke to Kenneth early Monday morning before he left for work at the navy yard. It was his regular call. The high school sweethearts talked every day, even after they divorced this year after 19 years of marriage, and they shared custody of their two teenage sons.

She was in shock about her ex-husband's death.

"He just went in there in the morning for breakfast," Proctor said Monday night of the building where the shooting took place. "He didn't even work in the building. It was a routine thing for him to go there in the morning for breakfast, and unfortunately it happened."

Proctor said she tried to call her ex-husband throughout the day and drove to the navy yard on Monday afternoon, fearing the worst. After waiting for about three hours alongside other relatives concerned about their loved ones, she was informed around 8 p.m. that he was among the dead. Officials did not detail the circumstances of his shooting, she said.

The Proctors married in 1994 and divorced this year. 

"We were still very close," she said. "He loved the Redskins, loved his kids — a very loving, caring, gentle person."

Furniture installer, grandfather

Arthur Daniels, 51, was a subcontractor for a furniture company that was doing work at the naval yard. He was married and had five children, as well as nine grandchildren.

A witness told the Washington Post the gunman shot Daniels in the back as he tried to get into an elevator.

Lewis R. Yancey II, who owns District Furniture Repair in Arlington County, where Daniels worked, told the Post he had a "great personality" and was "always helping others.”

Bear hugs, logistics

John Roger Johnson was an avid saltwater fisherman. (Courtesy of the Johnson family/Associated Press)
​ John Roger Johnson, 73, was a logistics analyst perhaps most notorious for his bear hugs, his daughter said.

"Rib-crunchers," Megan Johnson said with a laugh as she remembered her dad Tuesday. "You didn't have to pay for a chiropractor."

Johnson was an avid saltwater fisherman but, his daughter said, "could not cook to save his life." He had a place across the road from the ocean at Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for more than 20 years.

He would have celebrated his 74th birthday on Oct. 7. He also leaves his wife of more than eight years, Judy, and four stepchildren. 

IT specialist, military family 

Mary Knight, 51, was an IT specialist and the daughter of a former Green Beret instructor. Her mother, Liliana, told a Raleigh television station that the shootings were a test of faith.

"I hope there is such a thing as heaven," she told WTVD. "You know, you pray for your family, and sometimes I wonder. I really do."

Knight was also a part-time IT instructor at the Annandale and Loudon campuses of Northern Virginia Community College, school spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. 

Engineer and architect 

Vishnu Pandit was known for his devotion to family, community and the navy. (Courtesy of the Pandit family/Associated Press)
Vishnu Pandit, 61, was a marine engineer and naval architect known as Kisan, the Hindi word for "peasant." It suited the hard-working Indian immigrant, known for his devotion to family, community and his 30-year civilian navy career.

"He was very dedicated to improving the performance of naval ships and systems," longtime friend M. Nuns Jain said Tuesday outside the North Potomac home where Pandit's family privately mourned. "The only saving grace in this horrible incident is that he died doing what he loved the most in the service of his nation."

Jain said Pandit sailed with the U.S. Merchant Marine before joining the Naval Sea Systems Command, headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard.

Retired officer, Sunday school teacher

Martin Bodrog spent more than two decades in the military. (Courtesy of the Bodrog family/Associated Press)
Martin Bodrog, 54, was a retired U.S. naval officer who never seemed to slow down, his family said.

Even on cold winter days, Bodrog could be found outside "in shorts and his trademark Boston Bruins jersey, walking his dog and helping shovel all the driveways of his elderly neighbours," his family wrote in an obituary.

Bodrog and his wife of 25 years, Melanie, had three daughters — Isabel, 23; Sophie, 17; and Rita, 16.

He spent more than two decades in the military, specializing in amphibious operations as a Surface Warfare Officer and later helped the service design and purchase naval ships as a military contractor, the obituary said.

A Sunday school teacher, he also helped in a youth outreach program at the Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia.

History buff, animal lover

Gerald Read, 58, was devoted to his job as a project manager in information assurance at the navy yard and also to animals, said his wife of 35 years, Cathy.

"We have four dogs  three Labs and an Irish Setter  and they are the life of the family," she said. "He always had a really good life-work balance."

Read was a Civil War history buff and would watch battle re-enactments at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, his wife said.
On the day of the shooting, Cathy Read said when she had not heard from her husband by 5 p.m., she began to worry.
"Then there was a knock at the door, and I thought it was him," she said.
Instead, it was someone coming to tell her that her husband was dead.

Drummer, protector

Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, was a passionate protector, both in his security work and in the way he treated his daughters during game-day trips to M&T Field to root for his beloved Baltimore Ravens.

"He was all about protecting us," said daughter Megan outside her mother's Westminster home. She remembered her father guardedly eyeing other spectators as they climbed to their upper-tier seats, making sure she was safe in the roaring crowd.

Ridgell, a former Maryland State Police trooper, was working for a private security contractor at the Washington Navy Yard. 

His children and estranged wife, Tracey, say they want him remembered as a loving, funny and patriotic man who found satisfaction as a security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan; as a drummer in the all-volunteer Baltimore Colts Marching Band before the Ravens era; and as a successful softball coach to all three daughters, Heather, 33, Megan, 19, and Maddi, 17.

"He was so much more than a shooting victim. He was an amazing person," Megan said.

With files from Reuters


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?