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Gunman opens fire at Pentagon entrance, is killed

The gunman intended to enter the building, authorities say, before he and two police officers at the door exchanged gunshots, leaving him dead and the officers wounded.

March 05, 2010|By Julian E. Barnes

Reporting from Washington — A California man who attempted to enter the Pentagon by force and was shot by police has died from his wounds, police said Friday morning.

The shooter, whom official identified as John Patrick Bedell, 36, walked up to the Pentagon drew at least one gun and started firing, wounding two officers. Police said Bedell acted alone.

"There is no indication at this point there are any domestic or international terror nexus at all," Richard S. Keevill, chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the civilian police agency that guards the five-sided building, said Friday. "It appears to be a single individual with issues."

Bedell was armed with two 9 mm semi automatic weapons and had a large number of magazines. Three officers opened fire in return. Two were injured slightly, taken to the hospital and then released.

The gunfight took place about 6:40 p.m., yards from the entrance to the giant Defense Department installation as workers were heading home, police said. Employees were ordered back to their offices and the building was locked down for a time, with no one allowed in or out.

"He was very well dressed in a suit," Keevill said. "There was no indication on the way he was dressed he had hostile intent. He was very calm. There was no distress in his appearance. He walked directly to the officers and engaged."

The area just outside the Pentagon has a lot of commuters, serving as a transit hub for the Washington Metro railway system and many of the region's buses. The Metro station is one of the busiest in the Washington-area system, with thousands of commuters passing through, transferring from trains to buses.

The Metro entrance is just outside the doors of the Pentagon, meaning anyone can approach the building from the Metro. A force of officers guards the entrance during working hours, and people who work inside must flash badges before entering. Those without badges are ushered to a metal detector to be searched, then are escorted inside.

Officials did not identify the officers or, initially, the armed man.

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

Keevill said it took less than a minute to "neutralize" the shooter. He said many shots were fired, but investigators were still counting to determine how many. Because of that ongoing investigation the Pentagon metro station and entrance remain closed.

"We are very lucky," Keevill said. "We are very fortunate there were not more civilians there."

Police have identified and impounded the car that Bedell used to drive from California and found more ammunition inside.

According to press reports, Bedell is from Hollister in Central California's San Benito County, attended UC-Santa Cruz, where he received a degree in physics, and did graduate work at San Jose State University. Police however would not confirm those details publicly, only saying he was well educated.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the suspect was trying to get inside.

"He was obviously trying to gain entrance," Whitman said.

Keevill said Friday the shooter may have uttered something before firing, but he did not yet know what he said until he speaks with the injured officers. The injured officers are on administrative leave while they recuperate.

President Obama was closely following the case, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

The incident comes about four months after a gunman opened fire at Ft. Hood Army base in Texas, killing 13 and wounding dozens. The suspect in that case is an Army psychiatrist with links to radical Islam; he is in custody.

The only Pentagon police officer to die in the line of duty was James M. Feltis III, who in 2005 was struck by a stolen car driven by a man fleeing police.

julian.barnes@latimes.com

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