WASHINGTON — In Building 197, the bustling headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, Navy Capt. Mark Vandroff was running a meeting.
“I had a very routine day planned for myself,” he said.
That changed shortly after 8:15 a.m. when gunshots rang out — first a few, then a fusillade. The building erupted in pandemonium.
On the fourth floor, Navy Cmdr. Tim Jirus heard what sounded like muffled gunshots. After helping evacuate workers, he was outside in an alleyway when a maintenance worker told him the shooter was still in the building. As Jirus stood next to him, the worker was shot in the head.
“I’m fairly certain he was dead,” said Jirus, who ran for cover.
Employees described carnage at the naval administrative complex alongside the Anacostia River in southeast Washington.
Although access is closely controlled, employees said, they do not have to pass through metal detectors. Workers must first present their military ID cards to an armed security guard at the entrance to the compound, which is about a mile from the Capitol. To enter Building 197, an employee swipes the card over an electronic reader, and a green light signals the person is cleared to enter.
Gary Humes, a program manager, said he was nearing the building entrance when he heard a blast and saw people running out the door. He took shelter across the street in Building 201.
He’d come to work a few minutes late.
“I guess God was on my side on that one,” Humes said.
Vandroff, manager of the Navy’s non-nuclear surface ships, was running a routine meeting in a third-floor conference room when he heard gunfire, looked up and saw two bullet holes in the wall near the ceiling. Everyone pushed tables against the doors, then hit the floor and stayed as flat as they could, he said.