Indian-American Vishnu Pandit among 13 killed in Washington shooting

Investigators were searching for clues as to what led a lone gunman to kill 13 people, including an Indian-American, at a US naval base in an audacious mass shooting in the heart of the US capital before being shot dead.

Indian American Vishnu Pandit (61) was among those killed.
Marine engineer and naval architect Vishnu Pandit, 61, preferred the nickname 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 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, a Mumbai native, earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering in India in 1973 before coming to America and receiving a degree in naval architecture from the University of Michigan.

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

Married to his wife Anjali since 1978, Pandit had two sons and a granddaughter, Jain said.

“He was a real family man and he loved dogs,” including the family’s golden retriever, Bailey, Jain said.

Neighbour Satish Misra said Pandit was on the home owners association board in their leafy subdivision, and active in the local Hare Krishna Hindu temple.

“He was a gentle man. I really loved him and his family,” Misra said.

One neighbour, Zhaohua Zhou, told the post that a steady stream of cars arrived late Monday outside Pandit’s home.

“I’m astonished,” Zhou said. “I’m just so sorry.”

Another neighbour, Mike Honig, told the paper that Pandit and his wife have lived in the neighbourhood for at least 20 years. He described Pandit as “a very nice man with an Irish setter”.

“All of the neighbours are doing all they can,” Honig was quoted as saying. “It’s a terrible tragedy… It’s a stain and strain on the nation that we haven’t put public safety laws in place to prevent this sort of tragedy.”

A man who answered the phone at the Pandit house said the family did not want to comment, the Post said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified the alleged shooter at the sprawling Washington Navy Yard complex in southeast Washington not too far from the Capitol and the White House as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas.

Alexis, who received a general discharge in 2011 from the Navy Reserve, was arrested but not charged in a gun incident in Seattle back in 2004 but still had a security clearance with a military contractor that would have allowed him access to the Navy Yard, officials said.

“There’s no question [Alexis] would have kept shooting,” Washington police chief Cathy L. Lanier was quoted as saying.