Pentagon officers shot

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — A gunman coolly drew a weapon from his pocket and opened fire at the subway entrance to the Pentagon complex Thursday evening, wounding two police officers before being shot and critically wounded, officials said.

The two officers suffered grazing wounds and were being treated in a hospital, said Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police. Authorities had no motive for the shooting, although terror.

The suspect, believed to be a U.S. citizen, walked up to a security checkpoint at the Pentagon in an apparent attempt to get inside the massively fortified Defense Department headquarters, at about 6:40 p.m. “He just reached in his pocket, pulled out a gun and started shooting” at point-blank range, Keevill said. “He walked up very cool. He had no real emotion on his face.” The Pentagon officers returned fire with semiautomatic weapons.

Of the suspect, the chief said, “His injury is pretty critical.”

The assault at the very threshold of the Pentagon — the U.S. capital’s ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001 — came four months after a deadly attack on the Army’s Fort Hood, Texas, post allegedly by a U.S. Army psychiatrist with radical Islamic leanings. In the immediate aftermath Thursday, investigators did not think terrorism was involved but were not ruling that out and did not discuss possible motives.

President Obama was “closely following the case” and getting updates from the FBI through his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as John Patrick Bedell, 36. They also said they were speaking with a second man, who might have accompanied the shooter, and were running his name through databases.

The subway station is immediately adjacent to the Pentagon building, a five-sided northern Virginia colossus across the Potomac River from Washington. Since a redesign following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, riders can no longer disembark directly into the building. Riders take a long escalator ride to the surface from the underground station, then pass through a security check outside the doors of the building, where further security awaits.

After the attack, all Pentagon entrances were secured, then all were reopened except one from the subway, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. He said the subway entrance was likely to remain closed overnight at least.

Keevill said the gunman gave no clue to the officers at the checkpoint about what he was going to do.

“There was no distress,” he said. “When he reached into his pocket, they assumed he was going to get a pass and he came up with a gun.”