A Springfield native was next door to the building where the Navy Yard shooting rampage took place just minutes before the first shots rang out last week.
Commander Dominic Jones, 42, was born and raised in Springfield but has been stationed at the Washington Navy Yard for just over a year as a contract worker. Jones is an attorney for the Navy and works in the office of the Navy Inspector General.
The morning of the massacre in which shooter Aaron Alexis killed 12 and injured another 8 victims, Jones had gone to one of the gyms on the compound, located in a building just next to Building 197 where Alexis began targeting workers. Alexis was later killed at the scene during a police shootout.
“I had just, literally, just left the gym about 15 minutes prior to everything beginning,” Jones said.
Jones was in his own office when he first heard the news about a safety concern on the premises of the government facility.
“One of my coworkers came up to me and said ‘Hey, you need to shut the blinds on the windows, and you need to make sure you don’t exit the building or let anybody into the building,’ ” he said.
It was actually family members and friends from outside of the Navy Yard who told Jones about the mass shooting that was happening around him. The office building he was in was on lockdown for more than 12 hours before workers were finally escorted out to safety.
Jones’ wife was at home with their infant baby, taking a nap. He was able to get in contact with her to tell her he was safe.
Although he realizes there is the opportunity for a shooter such as Alexis to claim the lives of innocent victims anywhere, Jones said he never expected it to happen at the Navy Yard.
“Unfortunately the loss of lives is a reality … but you don’t expect that in your own backyard,” Jones said. “If it happened at Fort Hood, it could happen anywhere.”
When asked about gun safety and security, and how incidents such as this could be prevented in the future, Jones said he trusts government officials to make the right decisions.
“I know that our people at the highest levels of the Department of the Navy, Defense, and White House are looking into this issue,” he said. “I think everybody agrees that this type of violence is senseless … unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.”
The shooting happened on a Monday and Jones and other Navy Yard employees were allowed back to work last Thursday. The mood at the complex was somber, as grief counselors and other resources were available for those who sought support. The community within the workplace bonded together to support one another.
“One of the best ways for us to honor the memories of those who lost their lives is for us not to bow down to a spirit of fear, but to keep pressing forward recognizing that it is both an honor and a duty to serve our country,” Jones said. “It’s something that none of us take lightly.”
Jones said after this experience he looks forward to seeing his family back in Springfield soon.