Warren native Matthew Todd Brundidge came face to face Monday with a man accused of killing 12 people and wounding several others before he was killed at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after 8 a.m., the former Warren resident, who is an executive assistant at the facility, had been clearing out the weekend's emails when he heard a fire alarm. A few seconds later, a co-worker called saying the alarm was not a drill.
"I was told it was not a fire," he said by phone later Monday. "There was a shooter in the building."
An emergency response team vehicle arrives at the scene where a gunman was reported at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington on Monday. At least one gunman launched an attack inside the Washington Navy Yard, spraying gunfire on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallways at the heavily secured military installation in the heart of the nation’s capital, authorities said.
Brundidge, 45, a 1986 graduate of Western Reserve High School, said he grabbed his cell phone and identification card, and went to his supervisor's office to tell her what was happening. The group of employees headed toward the emergency exit.
"We opened the door heading to the back of the building when we heard several gun shots," Brundidge said. "They were really close."
The group was about 10 feet from the stairway, when a few seconds later, a tall, slim black male, wearing dark blue clothing, appeared at the end of the hallway.
"He was about 30 yards away," Brundidge said. "I did not expect him to be so close. My heart was beating really fast."
The man Brundidge saw was later identified by the FBI as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas. He died after a running gun battle with police, investigators said.
Alexis was a full-time reservist from 2007 to early 2011, leaving as a petty officer third class, the Navy said. It did not say why he left. He had been working for a fleet logistics support squadron in Fort Worth, Texas. The Navy listed his home of record as New York City.
"He pointed a shotgun at us, firing two to three shots. I don't know where the bullets lodged themselves. He was shooting at us. We wanted to get away."
The group headed down the stairway: "It was pandemonium. People were falling over each other trying to get out."
When they got outside of the building, they found themselves in an alley with nowhere to go.
"We could still hear shooting in the background," Brundidge continued. "People started climbing over the wall."
A few moments later, security personnel arrived. They directed the group of people back toward the other end of the building, past the door which they exited the building. When the group got about 100 feet on the other side of the building, they saw the SWAT team. They heard that there were still people in the building and that there had been people shot.
"We definitely were blessed," Brundidge said. "If we would have waited an extra two to three seconds before walking out that door, I don't know what would have happened."
The employees were moved down the street to a government building, where they were able to call their families. It was then that Brundidge realized that he left his car keys on his desk.
Brundidge, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he never faced a situation in which someone was shooting at him. He joined the Navy shortly after graduating from high school and retired in February 2010.
Back in Warren, Willie Brundidge, Matthew's father, who watched the drama unfold on television, says he is just glad his son is OK.
"I have not talked to him yet," the elder Brundidge said shortly after the shooting. "I saw him being interviewed on television."
Willie Brundidge spoke to his son's wife.
"She told me that he's all right," Willie Brundidge said.
The Navy Yard includes the headquarters of Naval District Washington and is home to a naval museum. The area around the facility has been marked in recent years by significant commercial and residential revitalization.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.