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Temple Members Describe Accused Shooter As Devout Man Who Hoped To Become Monk

Accused Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis spent several years attending a small Buddhist temple in suburban Fort Worth.

Wat Busaya in the community of White Settlement is small and tranquil. An elaborate shrine surrounded by offerings greets worshippers outside the main building and those who sit on the porch stay cool under water misters.

But the air at the temple was different Tuesday, as members tried to make sense of the fact that one of their own is accused of killing 12 people.

“I don’t know what he was doing, I don’t know why he’d do something stupid like that. He’s a good guy, everybody knows him, a lot of Fort Worth knows him. I don’t know why he’d do that,” said member Piline Sinnott.

The Wat Busaya temple was dedicated in 2010 and about 30 people gather there regularly to meditate, pray and share fellowship. Accused Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis used to be one of them.

Somsak Srisan says Alexis was very willing to take on temple chores and hoped to become a monk one day.

“Come to meditation in the evenings, in that time, about the year 2010 to year 2011, he’d come probably two, three times a week,” Srisan says.

Alexis was very devoted to chanting and spent time trying to learn Thai. And while members of the temple say they’ll never understand what led up to Monday’s events, Pat Pundisto says she believes Alexis came to Buddhism to make a positive change in his life.

“He was lonely and looking for something to make him feel good about himself and be the better situation,” says Pundisto.

Something it seems Aaron Alexis never found.

Tuesday night members of the Wat Busaya were called to gather and pray for Alexis’ soul.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.