A man described by police officials as well dressed, well educated and well armed walked up to an entrance to the Pentagon on Thursday evening, approached two police officers, calmly pulled a gun from his coat pocket and opened fire, wounding the officers before they shot him. The suspect later died, the Associated Press reported early Friday.
There was no immediate explanation for the attack at a doorway to the nation’s defence headquarters, one of the busiest, most prominent and closely guarded buildings in the Washington area.
Richard S. Keevill, chief of the force that guards the Pentagon, said that witnesses reported that the gunman “walked up very cool” and displayed “no real emotion on his face.” At a key moment, as he reached into his pocket, “they assumed he was going to get his pass out.” A pass is necessary to enter the building. But instead of bringing out a pass, Keevill said, the man “came out with a gun.” Then, Keevill said, the man started shooting. “There wasn’t time to say anything to him,” Keevill said. “He drew a gun and started shooting almost immediately.” (The Washington Post)
The officers, members of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, fired their .40-caliber Glock pistols and wounded the man critically, Keevill said at a news conference about two hours after the shooting. A third officer apparently also shot at the suspect. Keevill said that it appeared Mr. Bedell had acted alone.
“The officers acted very quickly and decisively to neutralize him as a threat,” Keevill said. “No one else was injured.” (The Washington Post)
The gunman and the two wounded officers were taken to George Washington University Hospital in the District. The gunman’s body arrived at the D.C. medical examiner’s office shortly after midnight, the office’s chief of staff, Beverly Fields, told the AP. The gunman died from gunshot wounds to his head. One of the officers sustained superficial gunshot wounds to the thigh and the other officer sustained superficial gunshot wounds to the shoulder. They were both released from the hospital Friday.
Law enforcement officials said they still had not determined a specific motive for the gunman, identified as John Patrick Bedell, 36, but officials said that he “had some issues” and that there were records of previous brushes with law enforcement officials. (The New York Times) Police and FBI investigators were examining a series of Internet postings thought to have been his work.
Bedell had carried two 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols and had several magazines of ammunition with him. He was not wearing body armor. A search of his car, found in a local parking lot, revealed more ammunition. Chief Keevill said it appeared that the suspect had traveled to the Pentagon by car from California over several weeks.
A man who identified himself as John Bedell answered a call placed to a Hollister, California home and said he had a 36-year-old son named John Patrick Bedell “who is in the Washington area” before saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk about this,” and hanging up. (Washington Post)
Officials would not speculate about what prompted the gunman’s actions. A spokesman for the National Security Council said it was too soon to determine whether the sudden and wordless attack was connected to terrorism.
“There is no indication at this point that there is any domestic or international terrorist nexus,” Keevill said, adding that the assessment that the gunman acted alone was supported by surveillance video. (The New York Times)
The police said Mr. Bedell was an American citizen. Military service records were being checked to see whether he had any ties to the armed forces. The FBI and Pentagon Police said Bedell was from Hollister, California.
Messages posted on the Web under the username JPatrickBedell seemed to share some biographical details with the shooter and pointed to a distrust of the military and the government at large. “I am determined to see that justice is served in the death of Colonel James Sabow, as a step toward establishing the truth of events such as the September 11 demolitions,” the user wrote, referring to the suicide of an Army officer in 1991. (The New York Times)
A 2006 arrest report for a man identified as John Patrick Bedell, then 33 years old, appeared to connect to the user JPatrickBedell, who wrote: “My desire for justice led me to violate what I think is one of the most unjust laws, cannabis prohibition, by growing 16 cannabis plants on my balcony in Irvine, CA from March 2006 to June 2006.” (The New York Times)
“The seizure of the United States government by an international criminal conspiracy is a long-established reality,” Bedell said in a podcast in November 2006, which also was published as text online. Such an organization, he said, “would use its powers to convert military, intelligence, and law enforcement bureaucracies (sic) into instruments for political control and the domination and subjection of society, while discrediting, destroying, and murdering honest individuals within those services that work to root out corruption and faithfully serve their fellow citizens.” (CNN)
President Obama was following the case and was being provided updates from the FBI, assistant White House press secretary Nicholas Shapiro said.
Although the Pentagon is a symbol of the nation’s armed forces, there was nothing disclosed immediately that tied the incident to attacks such as the one last year at Fort Hood, Tex. In many ways, the incident seemed reminiscent of two attacks in Washington in the past dozen years. One was the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last year, in which a man walked up to the museum entrance and shot and killed a guard before the man was wounded. In another, an armed man shot and killed two Capitol Police officers at an entrance to the Capitol.
As pieced together from accounts given Thursday night, the attack occurred at an entrance linking the Pentagon to the Pentagon Station on the Metrorail system, which runs underground at that point. The spot teems with people, including Pentagon employees and other commuters who transfer to and from buses.
Police are routinely posted there as “the first line of defence” for the Pentagon, said Terrance P. Sutherland, chief spokesman for the Pentagon Police. (The Washington Post) The Pentagon’s security system worked as intended, officials said. The gunman was prevented from entering the building and injuring anyone at work inside.
The number of shots fired by the gunman was not made clear. The number of shots fired by the officers was also not disclosed, but the total was described as high. The officers wore bullet-restraint vests. It was not clear whether the gunman wore one.
Dozens of officers from many area jurisdictions, including the Arlignton County and Pentagon police forces and some military personnel, converged on the Pentagon, directing traffic and using police dogs to search vehicles arriving at the south parking lot.
The Pentagon was briefly locked down. The Pentagon Metro station was closed shortly before 10 p.m. and remained closed Friday so the FBI could investigate. Trains passed through the station but did not pick up or drop off passengers. The Pentagon transit center also was closed, with pickups made at the Pentagon City station, officials said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Defence Department completely rebuilt the Metro entrance to the Pentagon for security reasons. Previously, a single escalator connected the Metro platform to the Pentagon entrance. After the 9/11 attacks, the escalator was closed and the old entrance walled off. Today, a new elevator leads outside. Pentagon workers must pass through a large stone entrance. Outside the main doors two guards sit behind bulletproof glass barriers and check identification cards. Inside the building beyond a set of turnstiles is another guard, armed with a rifle.