At Discovery building, all-clear after deadly James J. Lee standoff

By Dan Morse, Theresa Vargas and Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 1:44 PM

The Discovery Communications headquarters in downtown Silver Spring were given an all-clear Thursday morning, hours after a gunman was shot and killed by police at the end of a tense hostage standoff Wednesday afternoon.

Police worked through the night searching the complex at Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue, trying to determine whether two backpacks and two boxes that seemed to have been carried into the building by the gunman, who has been identified as James J. Lee, also were bombs, according to Montgomery County police spokeswoman Angela Cruz.

Nearby Wayne Avenue remained closed to traffic Thursday morning between Ramsey and Georgia avenues, Cruz said. Pedestrian access was restricted on the Georgia and Wayne avenue sides of the Discovery building.

Police on Thursday afternoon said they also were searching a home on Kimberly Street in the Wheaton area where they believe Lee lived.

Lee, 43, held three men hostage -- a security guard and two other Discovery employees -- and forced them to lie face down on the floor, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. Lee had a handgun and what Manger described as a live bomb strapped to him.

Police have not publicly named Lee, but several local and federal law enforcement sources identified him as the gunman.

Apart from Lee, nobody was injured during the dramatic episode, and the names of the hostages were not released. But the Washington Blade reported that one of the captives was Christopher Wood, a former Blade employee. He was in charge of marketing, the Blade's editor, Kevin Naff, said Thursday morning.

"He's a great guy. Kind, generous, hardworking. Everybody in the office kind of gravitated toward him," Naff said.

Naff said he received an e-mail from Wood on Thursday morning, which he took as a sign that Wood is engaging with people after the ordeal.

On its blog, Discovery released a statement from employee Jim McNulty, who was held hostage. In it, McNulty thanks police and public safety workers, as well as Discovery officials, "for helping to get me and my fellow hostages out safely."

"I want to thank my family, friends and coworkers for their thoughts and prayers during this situation," the blog post continues. " . . . I thank you for all for your concern during these harrowing hours."

Lee was killed at 4:48 p.m., nearly four hours after he stalked into the building with a handgun, took three hostages and later pointed his gun at one of them, said Manger.

An environmental militant, Lee held a grudge against Discovery, viewing the network as a purveyor of ideas he considered environmentally destructive and staging protests outside its headquarters, according to authorities and court records.

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