SWAT Team Takes Out Bomb-Wearing Hostage Taker
Authorities look at a screen that shows a live feed from a robot of James J. Lee, face up on the floor, inside the Discovery Channel network building where police shot and killed the gunman in Silver Spring, Md., Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Jacqu
WTOP via YellowBrix
September 02, 2010
SILVER SPRING, Md. – A man who railed against the Discovery Channel’s environmental programming for years burst into the company’s headquarters with at least one explosive device strapped to his body Wednesday and took three people hostage at gunpoint before police shot him to death, officials said.
The hostages – two Discovery Communications employees and a security guard – were unhurt after the four-hour standoff.
One of the hostages, Discovery employee Jim McNulty, posted a thank you on his Facebook page.
“First of all, I want to thank the Montgomery County Police and all the agencies that responded today for helping to ensure the safety of all my colleagues at Discovery Communications…and for helping to get me and my fellow hostages out safely,” McNulty wrote.
Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said tactical officers moved in after officers monitoring the gunman on building security cameras saw him pull out a handgun and point it at a hostage Wednesday afternoon.
The suspect was shot at 4:48 p.m. Wednesday.
“There was very little time that we weren’t on the phone with him during the entire event,” Manger said of the nearly four-hour long hostage situation.
“He went from agitation to being calm, to being agitated. He had a wide range of emotions while we were on the phone with him.”
Police also attempted to contact the gunman’s family.
“We were unable to find any family. We were looking for family, friends, his address, anything to help us with the negotiations, but to my knowledge we weren’t able to locate anyone,” Manger said.
Police remain on the scene at Discovery Thursday morning and the lobby remains closed as the investigation continues.
Montgomery County Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham tells WTOP’s Kristi King two boxes and two backpacks were removed from the lobby area. The four packages were detonated. It took about four hours to render the packages safe.
“The building is still a crime scene. We still have work to do,” Manger said.
Manger said an explosive device detonated when the suspect was shot.
The make-shift bomb was made with two small propane canisters — the type you would use with a small camping grill — and wrapped in piping holding shotgun pellets, according to Montgomery County Police Lt. Paul Starks. Starks can’t say whether the make-shift bomb was on the gunman or in one of the packages.
WTOP’s Adam Tuss and Kate Ryan – who were at the scene – reported hearing a popping noise shortly before 5 p.m.
A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said authorities had identified James J. Lee as the likely suspect.
But Manger would not confirm the identity of the suspect, or his demands.
“He had a number of issues with Discovery. He’s had a history of conflict with Discovery,” Manger said.
Police said the man burst into the main lobby of the downtown Silver Spring office around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“He was wearing what appear to be metallic canister devices on his front and back. He also pulled out a handgun and was waving the handgun around,” Manger said.
NBC News reported that after its producers called Discovery’s general number, a man identifying himself as James J. Lee got on the phone and said he had a gun and several bombs.
“I have several bombs strapped to my body ready to go off. I have a device that if I drop it, if I drop it, it will … explode,” the man told NBC.
He said he built the bombs in about three weeks. “I did a lot of research. I had to experiment,” he said.
Lee, 43, lived in the Silver Spring area and was involved in protests at the Discovery Communications building for the past several years.
All 1,900 employees were evacuated from the building. David Leavy with Discovery Communications says all of the employees in the building are accounted for and are safe.
Leavy also praised his employees for following emergency evacuation plans “flawlessly.”
“The priority is going to be nurturing and responding to employee needs over the next couple of days,” Leavy says.
Employees Thursday will be allowed in the building at 10 a.m. to get their belongings. All will be allowed to leave at 1 p.m. for the Labor Day weekend. Counselors will be on hand for employees.
A daycare with about 100 children inside the building was also evacuated. The children were rolled out of the building in cribs and taken to a nearby McDonald’s.