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Shooting at Pentagon entrance leaves 2 police officers hurt, lone gunman dead

By Allison Klein, Clarence Williams and Martin Weil
Friday, March 5, 2010; A01

An armed man 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 defense headquarters, one of the busiest, most prominent and closely guarded buildings in the Washington area.

The wounds to the two officers did not appear serious. Richard S. Keevill, chief of the force that guards the Pentagon, described them as grazing wounds.

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.

"The officers acted very quickly and decisively to neutralize him as a threat," Keevill said. "No one else was injured."

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.

Police declined to identify the suspect, but two federal law enforcement sources identified him as John Patrick Bedell, 36. One of the sources said Bedell was seen on a surveillance video near the Pentagon talking to another man.

Police were looking for the second man Thursday night but did not know whether he was involved in any way in the shooting, which occurred at 6:40 p.m., near the end of rush hour. One federal law enforcement source said the second man was not thought to be involved.

A man who identified himself as John Bedell answered a call placed to a Hollister, Calif., 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.

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.

President Obama was following the case and was being provided updates from the FBI, assistant White House press secretary Nicholas Shapiro said.

Keevill 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."

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 with a gun 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 defense" for the Pentagon, said Terrance P. Sutherland, chief spokesman for the Pentagon police.

The Pentagon's security system worked as intended, officials said. The gunman was prevented from entering the building and injuring anyone at work inside.

"We train with some regularity to see we can do it very quickly, and we did it very quickly tonight," Keevill said.

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-resistant vests. It was not clear whether the gunman wore one.

Dozens of officers from many area jurisdictions, 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.

The Pentagon was briefly locked down. The Pentagon Metro station was closed shortly before 10 p.m. and will remain closed Friday so the FBI can investigate, said Cathy Asato, a Metro spokeswoman. Trains will pass through the station but will not pick up or drop off passengers. The Pentagon transit center also was to be closed, with pickups made at the Pentagon City station, officials said.

The Pentagon Metrorail station has two banks of entryway escalators that lead to the underground station, with one of the Pentagon building's entrances located between the rail station's entrances, according to Metro.

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

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.

Staff writers Mary Pat Flaherty, Spencer S. Hsu, Greg Jaffe, Michael D. Shear, Lena H. Sun, William Wan, Josh White and Craig Whitlock, and staff researchers Lucy Shackleford and Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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