Gunman killed after shooting 2 Pentagon police

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 11:34am

WASHINGTON – A California man killed in a shootout with Pentagon police drove cross-country and arrived at the military headquarters' subway entrance armed with two semiautomatic weapons, authorities said Friday. The shooter apparently left behind Internet postings resentful of the government and airing suspicions about the 9/11 attacks.

John Patrick Bedell, 36, of Hollister, Calif., was named as the gunman in the Thursday evening attack. Authorities said he'd had previous run-ins with the law.

Investigators have found no immediate connection to terrorism, and the attack that superficially wounded two police officers at the massive Defense Department headquarters appears to be a case of "a single individual who had issues," Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police, said in an early morning press conference Friday.

Keevill described Bedell as "very well-educated" and well-dressed, saying Bedell was wearing a suit when he showed up at the secure Pentagon entrance about 6:40 p.m. and blended in with workers. He was concealing two 9 millimeter semiautomatic weapons and "many magazines" of ammunition.

When Bedell seemed to reach into his pocket for worker identification, he instead pulled out a gun, Keevill said.

"He just reached in his pocket, pulled out a gun and started shooting" at point-blank range, Keevill said. "He walked up very cool. He had no real emotion on his face."

Bedell died Thursday night from head wounds received when the two injured officers and another officer returned fire, Keevill said.

The exchange of fire at the subway entrance in Arlington, Va., lasted less than a minute but numerous shots were fired, Keevill said, adding that investigators were "still counting." Bedell was not wearing body armor, he added.

The two officers injured have been released from the hospital. One suffered a thigh wound and the other was hit in the shoulder. Keevill said both were superficial injuries.

Keevill said he did not know what motivated the shooting: "I have no idea what his intentions were."

There was more ammunition in Bedell's car, which authorities found in a local parking garage.

"He came here from California," Keevill said. "We were able to identify certain locations that he spent that last several weeks making his way from the West coast to the East coast."

Signs emerged that Bedell harbored ill feelings toward the government and the armed forces, and had questioned the circumstances behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In an Internet posting, a user by the name JPatrickBedell wrote that he was "determined to see that justice is served" in the death of Marine Col. James Sabow, who was found dead in the backyard of his California home in 1991. The death was ruled a suicide but the case has long been the source of theories of a cover up. Sabow's family has maintained that he was murdered because he was about to expose covert military operations in Central America involving drug smuggling.

Keevill said Friday that authorities had not made "a final determination" that the shooter was the same Bedell.

The user named JPatrickBedell wrote the Sabow case was "a step toward establishing the truth of events such as the September 11 demolitions."

That same posting railed against the government's enforcement of marijuana laws and included links to the author's 2006 court case in Orange County, Calif., involving allegations of cultivating marijuana and resisting a police officer. Court records available online show the date of birth on the case mentioned by the user JPatrickBedell matches that of the John Patrick Bedell suspected in the shooting.

The assault at the very threshold of the Pentagon — the U.S. capital's ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001 — came four months after a deadly attack on the Army's Fort Hood, Texas, post allegedly by a U.S. Army psychiatrist with radical Islamic leanings.

Hatred of the government motivated a man in Texas last month to fly a small plane into a building housing Internal Revenue Service offices, killing an IRS employee and himself.

The shooting resembled one in January in which a gunman walked up to the security entrance of a Las Vegas courthouse and opened fire with a shotgun, killing one officer and wounding another before being gunned down in a barrage of return fire.

President Barack Obama was getting FBI updates on the Pentagon shooting through his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

The subway station is immediately adjacent to the Pentagon building, a five-sided northern Virginia colossus across the Potomac River from Washington. Since a redesign following the 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, riders can no longer disembark directly into the building. Riders take a long escalator ride to the surface from the underground station, then pass through a security check outside the doors of the building, where further security awaits.

Transit officials said the subway station would remain closed at least part of the day Friday while the FBI continued its investigation.

Keevill said the gunman gave no clue to the officers at the checkpoint about what he was going to do.

"There was no distress," he said. "When he reached into his pocket, they assumed he was going to get a pass and he came up with a gun."

"He wasn't pretending to be anyone. He was wearing a coat and walked up and just started shooting."

Keevill added: "We have layers of security and it worked. He never got inside the building to hurt anyone."

Ronald Domingues, 74, who lives next door to Bedell's parents in a gated golf course community in Hollister, said he doesn't know the family well. But he said Bedell sometimes lived with his parents and struck him "like a normal young man."

"He just seemed like a normal guy to me," Domingues said. "I wouldn't suspect he would be involved in anything like this."

Domingues described the neighborhood as middle-class. He said the Bedells live in a one story southwestern-style stucco home. The house was dark Thursday night.

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