Shooting at Pentagon entrance by lone gunman leaves 2 police officers hurt

By Allison Klein, Josh White and Mary Pat Flaherty

Washington Post Staff Writers - Friday, March 5, 2010

A gunman opened fire and shot two police officers at the main entrance to the Pentagon on Thursday night, calmly pulling a gun from his coat pocket and shooting without saying a word before he was seriously wounded in a flurry of return fire, said Chief Richard S. Keevill of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

The shooting occurred at 6:40 p.m. near the end of rush hour at the public entrance of the Defense Department headquarters near where commuters pick up Metro trains and buses. No bystanders were hit.

Injuries to the officers, who work for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, did not appear life-threatening, said Chris Layman, a spokesman for the agency. The suspect's injuries were critical, Keevill said. Pentagon police did not release the names of the officers or suspect. It was not clear what type of gun was used, but authorities said it was a handgun.

The officers and the suspect were taken to George Washington University Hospital, and the suspect was in Pentagon police custody. The Associated Press said sources identified the shooter as as 36-year-old John Patrick Bedell.

Police declined to speculate on a motive, and a spokesman for the National Security Council said there was not enough information to know whether it was terrorism-related. Keevill said the gunman was a U.S. citizen but declined to elaborate.

Keevill said the shooter walked up to a checkpoint near the entrance. He calmly reached into his pocket as if to show a pass and instead took out a handgun and fired it, grazing the officers.

The gunman "did not say a word" and was "very cool," Keevill said.

Dozens of officers from all over the area, including the Arlington 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.

Keevill said he was "pleased on a number of levels. The officers acted quickly to neutralize the threat."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Defense Department 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. Now, 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.

Keevill would not say whether the gunman wore body armor. The officers are equipped with standard vests.

The Pentagon was briefly locked down after the incident, although the Metro entrance was closed for about two hours.

Rush-hour commuters exiting a Blue Line train at the time realized they could not exit through turnstiles, which had been closed, said Kay Coyte, an editor at The Washington Post who was in the station. The passengers went down to a lower level of the station, and after at least one train passed them by, they got on another headed toward Pentagon City, Coyte said. "We could not tell what the nature of the problem was other than they described it as a police situation," she said.

The Pentagon Metro station and a bus transit center were closed at the request of Pentagon officials who reported the shooting to Metro at 6:55 p.m., said Cathy Asato, a Metro spokeswoman. The Pentagon Metrorail station has two banks of entryway escalators that lead to the underground station, with one of the Pentagon building's entrances between the rail station's entrances, according to Metro.

Metro had also received a report of suspicious packages outside the station, the agency said in a statement, but none of the packages posed a threat.

In 2005, Officer James Feltis became the first Pentagon force officer killed in the line of duty. He was dragged by a Cadillac stolen by a carjacker who was fleeing Alexandria police and entered a Pentagon parking lot, where Feltis tried to stop him.

In 1997, seven Pentagon officers fired 20 shots into a stolen minivan and critically wounded two unarmed teenagers, part of a group of five teens who were chased from a Pentagon lot to Columbia Pike. And in 1987, an Ohio man was shot and killed by Pentagon police inside the Pentagon's River Entrance after he pulled a pistol and tried to enter an area near the Pentagon "war room."

Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu, Greg Jaffe, Michael D. Shear, Lena H. Sun, William Wan, Martin Weil, Craig Whitlock and Clarence Williams and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.