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16 September 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippine Embassy is trying to determine if there are any Filipinos among the victims in the horrific mass shooting at a military facility here that left at least 13 people dead and eight wounded.

At the same time, the Embassy conveyed the condolences of the Philippine Government to the families of the victims of the shooting that took place at the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington D.C.

“The Philippine Government and the Filipino people join the rest of the world in mourning with all those who lost their loved ones in the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard this morning,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said.

Although there are no reports of Filipino casualties in the shooting, Ambassador Cuisia said the Embassy wants to make sure that none of the Filipinos working at the Navy Yard are among the dead or wounded.

Ambassador Cuisia said the Embassy is contacting the United States Navy, local hospitals and police authorities to check for possible Filipino casualties in the shooting rampage that took place inside the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

“We want to be sure that all our kababayans are out of harm’s way,” Ambassador Cuisia said, referring to an undetermined number of Filipinos working in the base as naval officers and enlisted personnel, civilian employees and private contractors.

The Embassy said the shooting occurred at around 8:20 a.m. when a gunman opened fire inside the NAVSEA Headquarters at Building 197 where most of the 3,000 military and civilian personnel in the facility are working.

The gunman, who was later identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, a former Navy enlisted man from Fort Worth, Texas, was later killed in an exchange of gunfire with responding police officers. Although Alexis is believed to have acted alone, authorities are searching for another person in connection with the shooting.

Shortly after the shooting was reported, the Embassy twitted an alert to the estimated 75,000 members of the Filipino Community in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, advising them to avoid the Navy Yard area because of ongoing police operations.

The Embassy later worked with the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations and the Migrant Heritage Commission in contacting Filipinos working inside what is considered to be oldest onshore facility of the US Navy and home to its highest-ranking officer-- the Chief of Naval Operations.

Ambassador Cuisia said the Embassy was also informed that several Filipinos were trapped in nearby buildings but they were all accounted for before the end of the day.

Some Filipinos the Embassy was able to get in touch with said they were instructed to “shelter in place” while authorities searched the grounds of the Navy Yard for the suspects in the shooting.  Others who arrived after the shooting were told to just work from home. ###