Local son aids in escape from Navy Yard shooting

By JESSICA WESTON News Review Correspondent

Local son aids in escape from Navy Yard shootingThe shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard Monday morning sent shockwaves throughout the country, but the deadly massacre of 12 hit especially close to home for local resident Rich Zajicek.

His oldest son, Scott, was working at the Navy Yard that day.

Thankfully, Scott Zajicek not only escaped the scene himself but was also able to help others escape.

Scott Zajicek, 36, works as an acquisitions specialist for Delta Resources supporting the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Although he has an office elsewhere, he frequently works on-site at the Navy Yard.

Monday morning started like a normal day, he said.

“I met with my government customer at 7:30 a.m. outside Building 197.”

After the two parted ways, Zajicek headed to the Navy Yard cafeteria for breakfast, leaving just 15 minutes before the first shots, he said.

Then Zajicek headed “up to the third deck where my customer was.

“The first shots went off,” he said.

At first it wasn’t obvious what was going on. He was “approximately 125 yards [from the sound]. It caught people’s attention, but we still didn’t know.”

“We knew something was going on when we saw people running out side exit doors toward Anacostia River and the back wall of the Navy Yard. Then the second alarm starts going off and the second round of shots.

“I grabbed my government customer and another gentleman and we proceeded to the back of the building.”

When Zajicek left the building, he found himself facing another dilemma, literally. “Where we exited was in a back alley which turned out to be a dead end with a 12-foot-high brick wall.”

With the help of others, Zajicek took two parking-structure plastic barricades and stacked one on top of the other, helping scores of people climb over the wall.

Looking back, Zajicek is reluctant to be singled out for his efforts. “I was one the helpers,” he said “There [were] a lot more helpers than you would figure in a case like that.”

Eventually “it got too congested over by the wall so they went the other way to try to find the way out,” said Zajicek, who also helped with crowd management.

“I stayed by the wall for 20-30 minutes then I moved the other way to get out myself.”

Once outside, “We got pushed back and pushed back by the police.” Eventually finding himself “positioned by the police car,” Zajicek was able to hear what was going on at the scene, including, he said, “when the second officer went down.

“And that’s when we decided we aren’t going to be getting into the building anytime soon.”

Zajicek, who is unmarried, wanted to tell his family he was OK, but there was a problem; he had been separated from his cell phone along the way. “Who remembers phone numbers, anymore?” he said.

Fortunately he could think of one.

“Out of 200 contacts [Scott] had memorized my number,” said Scott’s sister Jennifer Lord, who first heard about the shooting on the news.

“When he got out he called my home number from a borrowed cell phone and I was able to text the [rest of the] family that he was OK,” she said.

She adds that when Scott was able to communicate with his family via Facebook, her main concern was seeing him in the flesh, a wish that was soon fulfilled when her brother visited her home in nearby Annapolis, Md., later that day.

His dad, Ridgecrest resident Rich Zajicek, is a retired Navy captain who currently works at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division as an integration engineer. He turned on the TV before work Monday morning, just in time to catch an early report of the tragedy.

“I first noticed it was Navy Shipyard,” said the elder Zajicek. “I thought to myself ‘Holy cow, this is horrible.’ Then I saw it was NAVSEA.

“Right after the news item I woke up my wife.

“We watched the news for about 15 minutes, [then] I started calling my daughter [Jennifer] and she relayed that Scott had left word that he was OK.”

Rich Zajicek had mixed feelings at the news. “Huge relief for him,” he said, “but by then we knew there were lots of casualties so we just felt awful about the whole thing.”

Her brother’s story comes as no surprise to Lord. Scott and his identical twin Michael are always ready to help out people in need, she said.

“Neither of my brothers is the kind of guy to make a big deal out of stuff, they do what they have to do.

“[Scott] didn’t feel like he did anything heroic. He just felt like he did what he had to do to get the people around him out safely.”

Story First Published: 2013-09-18