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John Patrick Bedell's troubled path to the Pentagon

The man who died trying to blast his way into the vast military complex had been mentally ill for at least 15 years.

March 06, 2010|By Richard A. Serrano, Sam Quinones and Rich Connell
  • John Patrick Bedell is shown in his ID photo from San Jose State University.
John Patrick Bedell is shown in his ID photo from San Jose State University.

The Northern California man who drove across the country and tried Thursday to blast his way into the Pentagon was the author of rambling, conspiratorial-minded Internet treatises on politics and had suffered from mental illness, according to people close to his family and court records.

John Patrick Bedell had been ill for at least 15 years, according to San Benito County Supervisor Reb Monaco, a friend of the Bedells for decades who spent time with the gunman's parents Thursday night after they received news of the shooting.

"He seemed rather paranoid," Monaco said. "He was a heavy marijuana user and tended to self-medicate with marijuana. I don't know if he used other drugs."

Monaco described Bedell, 36, as gentle and intelligent, one of three bright sons and the product of a "very loving, very close" family.

The bloody attack outside the Pentagon that left two police officers wounded and Bedell fatally injured was at odds with the man he watched grow from childhood. "His actions do not really fit that," he said.

Bedell's past added to questions for federal investigators, notably how a man who police say was repeatedly a patient in mental facilities got 9-millimeter pistols and a large cache of ammunition.

Agents were tracking the history of Bedell's guns, trying to determine if he purchased them. Though declining to elaborate, Michael Campbell, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is assisting the investigation, said that inquiry "will not be an easy cut-and-dried trace."

Despite Bedell's mental issues, he might have been legally permitted to buy firearms unless a judge had ruled him incompetent or he had been formally committed to a mental facility, Campbell said. "Those are the only times when mental health issues come into play," he said.

In Hollister, where Bedell lived off and on, relatives said they were devastated by the incident and hinted at his mental turmoil. "We may never know why he made this terrible decision," the family said in a statement. "One thing is clear though -- his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character.

"To the outside world, this tragedy is the first and only thing they will know of Patrick. To us, he was a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin." The family expressed hope for the speedy recovery of the injured police officers.

Bedell's LinkedIn page said he has a degree in physics from UC Santa Cruz and had studied biochemistry in the 1990s at San Jose State University. Bedell recently attended San Jose State as a graduate student, studying electrical engineering, said Pat Harris, university spokeswoman.

San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill told reporters that family members said Bedell had been a patient in mental facilities three or four times.

A YouTube video shows a thin, clean-cut Bedell calmly talking into the camera about "information currency," a financial system he was trying to develop. What appear to be his Internet postings go on at length about politics and the misuses of government authority.

Bedell described his distress over the handling of an investigation into the death of a Marine officer and his suspicions about who was behind the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, according to a posting attributed to him on

"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 posting says.

The writings also show an interest in the financial potential of marijuana and refer to Bedell's 2006 Orange County arrest for pot cultivation, when police found plants on his Irvine apartment balcony.

The marijuana charges were dropped, records show, but Bedell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor resisting arrest. He served three years' probation, which ended in August.

There were more signs of trouble in recent months. Just after New Year's, Bedell's mother received a call on her son's cellphone from a man identifying himself as a Texas highway patrol officer. Bedell had been speeding and the officer was concerned that Bedell's vehicle was in disarray, records show.

He asked Karen Bedell if her son was a danger to himself or others. Patrick, as he was known, told the officer he was on his way to the East Coast, but family members said he had no relatives or friends there.

After Bedell spoke with his mother, and she told the officer her son was OK, Bedell was released, according to San Benito County Sheriff's Department records.

On Jan. 11, Bedell's parents called sheriff's deputies, saying he had returned and appeared "impaired, delusional and agitated," Hill said.

Their concern was heightened by his refusal to discuss a recent $600 purchase he made at a shooting range in Sacramento.

Bedell's father, Oscar, filed a missing person report because the family was unable to later reach Bedell, records show.

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